Getting a prison education in California is a joke. Allow me to explain why.

When a prisoner gets assigned to school, that is basically his job. The incentives for him to go to school every day are unlimited access to the phones, weekend and night yard [outside recreation], plus an increased canteen draw. It’s a pretty good gig, really.

But here’s the catch: If you work hard, study hard, and finally earn your GED, then you no longer have a reason to stay in education, according to the prison, and are “unassigned” from your position. When this happens the prison assumes you no longer have a job and punishes you by taking away your night and weekend yard privileges, which are reserved for workers only. To a prisoner, these extra hours at yard mean everything.

So what is a yard-loving inmate to do? Easy: continue to fail the tests to ensure remaining assigned to education, thus achieving nothing, learning less, and taking up valuable space in the classroom from those who truly wish to learn. The waiting list to get in becomes gridlocked, teachers become frustrated with students unwilling to learn, and those who succeed continue to get punished for their efforts.

It’s a broken system with a painfully simple solution: Allow inmates to keep all of their privileges upon completion of their GED. This will finally give prisoners incentive to study, learn, and pass their tests in order to move out of the classrooms. This will also increase the number of prisoners cycling through education, as well as give prisoners a constructive way to fill their time. But until this happens, the educational system in California prisons will remain stagnant and unproductive, effectively wasting time and precious taxpayer dollars on account of a few hours’ worth of yard time.

With this in mind, is it really a surprise that so many parolees eventually return to prison? Such is the result of a prison system which quite literally teaches its inmates how to fail.

Patrick Michael Lamour is serving 33-years to life in California for crimes he committed as a juvenile. 

Patrick Lamour #F-19597

PVSP A4-216

PO Box 8500

Coalinga, CA 93210