At the Prison: A Joyous Graduation

Two days ago, 19 young women made history by becoming the first inmates in the state of Georgia to receive high school diplomas while incarcerated.  Their graduation was described as “the best thing that’s ever happened at Lee Arrendale State Prison.”  I am so very proud of them and of the opportunity I had to…

At the Prison: No School Today. It’s Confederate Memorial Day. Really?

Yes, really. Not one of the teachers with whom I work at Lee Arrendale State Prison knew that the state of Georgia officially observes Confederate Memorial Day.  I found out last month from one of my classroom aides, an inmate who pointed out the date (April 27) on the official calendar of state holidays.  When I…

At the Prison: A Few Things I’ve Learned

Teaching high school in a prison isn’t your normal job.  As Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore!” In the short time I’ve been teaching at Lee Arrendale State Prison, I’ve learned a number of interesting things, some by observation but others by listening to the inmates…

At the Prison: A Thank You, an Apology, and an Inmate Pat-Down

High school classes at the prison normally meet Monday through Thursday. However, last week we added Friday school for inmates who are classified as seniors.  I was asked to fill in for the Friday teacher and agreed in spite of some misgivings.  It would mean coming into the prison on my own rather than with a group of teachers,…

At the Prison: Five Things Not Allowed in a Prison Classroom

School supplies and other items normally found or allowed in a regular high school classroom cannot be kept in a classroom at a prison. 1. Spiral-bound notebooks, workbooks, or information packets   Inmates can remove the plastic coil binding and use it for any number of things, some of which could cause harm to others….

At the Prison: Studs, Females Who Take On Male Personas

One of the first things we, as high school teachers, noticed our first night at Lee Arrendale State Prison was that some of the inmates appeared to be, not women, but young men. (Arrendale Prison is the largest women’s prison in Georgia.)  In the classroom, other inmates referred to these inmates as “he” and then quickly…

At the Prison: Beginnings

Entering the prison is a bit like going through airport security but only at first. Coats, jackets, blazers all must go through the X-ray machine, as must the clear plastic backpacks or bags that contain our water bottles and evening meals.  Food must be clearly visible.  Very little can be carried into the prison. Cell…