Upon entering prison, I knew deep down inside that I needed an education. I was a more street person than anything else in those early days. My writing and spelling was absolutely horrible. I once wrote a letter home and my cousin scolded me about the context of that letter. So I started, one step at a time.
I first had to take what is called an E.A. test which is basically an assessment exam to get an idea what level of education one has. I took the test and made something like a 12.9 which is the highest you can make. This allowed me to enter college. What helped was having earned my high school diploma also. Once at an actual prison unit, I sent a request to the education department and was invited to speak with a counselor.
They have classes for people that need a GED and also trades. But my situation was a different step above that because college was my only option. I signed up and was shipped to the appropriate unit that offered college courses. Once there, at the unit, I was laid in to take an entrance exam, in those days it was called the TASP test. It is a very hard timed test. I basically had to take a three part test: math, reading and grammar. At the end of the test I also had to write an essay. I failed the math and reading part. I was allowed to take certain accredited classes but I also had to take two remedial classes which were not accredited.
I went through my daily struggles as I still had to work a full time job. Jobs vary from clerk, janitor, kitchen, metal factory, maintenance, floor buffer to name a few. None of these jobs pay anything. So you are essentially a slave.
Once the journey started, I had to sign a document that I agreed to pay for all the trades and college classes upon release. Trades are usually $ 1200 per course and classes are around $ 300 at junior college. So, I work for free but my debt level continues to grow. I did not allow that to stop me. I completed the two automotive trades and the degree.
Years later, President Obama signed into law Pell Grants for prisoners. I entered college once again earning a 2nd degree as a HVAC tech along with my license. I do not have to pay for this later.
The many classes that I took in religious studies at the World Bible School were free. I reached out to those guys or mr. Doelas myself. The anger management and Hospice classes are offered on a volunteer basis.
In prison a person is NOT forced to get an education. It’s all on the individual.
Derrick L. Griffin, 06-05-2021