Prison Mathematics Project- Essay Project: The Value of Higher Education Within Prisons by Randy Brennan

by Randy Brennan, 18 years

Nineteen years old, barely literate, and despondently ignorant of my aptitude for education, I showed up to prison angry and resistant to positive change. After completing the “mandatory” Basic Education (GED) tests in 2005, I realized that I was a good student and had a thirst for knowledge. I decided from then on that I would take every opportunity for college education that prison could offer me. I went on to earn an Information Technology Certificate, Technical Design Certificate, CNC-Machining Certificate, and an Associate Technical Arts-Business Degree. I am currently taking classes to turn that degree into a full AA transfer degree.

Throughout my prison experience I have striven to habitually educate myself as a lifestyle, which has reformed my old criminal thought patterns, behavior, and conduct. Arriving to prison as an emerging adult, I was still very impressionable and open to negative influence from the rest if the prison population. I made stupid choices and got myself into some trouble: fighting, tattooing, hanging out with prison gang members, and adhering to the “convict code,” which is code for a criminal mindset, and used to intimidate/manipulate followers. My constant self-determination to educate myslef positioned me to mature out of my adolescent developmental deficits, old self-destructive paths, and created a fertile mental environment for gaining useful knowledge.

Over the course if my sentence my values have changed, making me no longer intrigued by the unripe schemes of my adolescent self, but instead intrigued by personal accomplishments and meaningful contributions to society. I want to gain a college degree so that I can net a higher wage upon release and be a better provider for my wife and growing family. They are my primary raeason and purpose for staying driven on this path of self-development and education.

The great desire to change and engage in self-guided reform must be met by greater opportunities for change. For me, it was the educational opportunities, however limited, that cultivated my success behind bars. I hope to see more opportunities for education in the future.