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2.2: Read and Understand- Prison to Professor

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    203791
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    Learning Objectives

    This chapter introduces students to the reading “I Went from Prison to Professor” through a vocabulary preview activity, reading process activity, and summary and response activity. It may be helpful to print a copy of I Went from Prison to Professor to make notes about vocabulary and to annotate as you preview and read the article.


    Vocabulary Preview for “I Went from Prison to Professor”

    Purpose

    The purpose of this activity is to build knowledge of vocabulary before reading a text in order to improve fluency and efficiency. You may also wish to practice using the new vocabulary in your writing.

    Instructions

    Several words and phrases in the article “I Went from Prison to Professor” are bold and are also listed below. Some of the words are academic vocabulary that you will see in readings for college courses. Others are words that have common, everyday meanings but are used differently in “I Went from Prison to Professor.” For example, pilot is used in the reading but does not refer to a person who flies a plane. Additionally, collocations (two or more words frequently used together) and other informal uses of language are also included in the list. Prior to reading the article, familiarize yourself with the words and phrases using a dictionary (or searching online for any words or phrases not included in the dictionary). Several pieces of information are provided for each word and phrase:

    • The part of speech for the word according to how it is used in the article “I Went from Prison to Professor”
      • Many words can take multiple parts of speech and have numerous definitions. Knowing a word’s part of speech in the sentence can help you to narrow down to the correct dictionary definition.
    • The sentence where the word is used in the article “I Went from Prison to Professor”
      • The sentence provides context, which also helps to narrow down to the appropriate definition from the dictionary. The context is the situation in which the word is used. Paying attention to context will help you with words that have different meanings than their everyday use.
    • The paragraph number where the word can be found in the reading
      • If you need additional context beyond the sentence, you can refer to the paragraph in the article for more information.

    Using the information provided for each word and phrase, identify a relevant definition from the dictionary. You may also wish to note definitions and synonyms next to the words in a printed copy of the article to help you while you are reading. A synonym is a word which has a similar meaning to another word.

    Vocabulary and Phrases

    1. account for (v.): The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly 25 percent of the incarcerated population around the globe. (Paragraph 8)
    2. advocate (n.): I make this argument not only as a formerly incarcerated person who now teaches aspiring medical doctors, but also as an advocate for people with criminal convictions. (Paragraph 4)
    3. bottom line (n.): The bottom line is education increases personal income and reduces crime. (Paragraph 15)
    4. conviction (n.): People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning. (Paragraph 2)
    5. disproportionately (adv.): This question also disproportionately affects people of color, since people of color are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. (Paragraph 26)
    6. felony (n.): With three felony convictions, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking as a prior and persistent career criminal. (Paragraph 6)
    7. gatekeeper (n.): It made me feel like I was nothing more than a criminal in the eyes of the college gatekeepers. (Paragraph 25)
    8. incarcerated (adj.): As a formerly incarcerated person who now is an endocrinologist and professor at two world renowned medical institutions — Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine — I believe this move is a positive one. (Paragraph 2)
    9. Pell grant (n.): Due to the federal ban on receiving Pell grants while incarcerated, most of those serving time are not able to afford to take college courses while in prison. (Paragraph 21)
    10. pilot (adj.): …the current Second Chance Pell pilot funding being directed to prisons, $30 million, accounts for 0.1 percent of the total $28 billion of Pell funding. (Paragraph 23)
    11. recidivism (n.): A 2013 analysis of several studies found that obtaining higher education reduced recidivism — the rate of returning to prison — by 43 percent and was four to five times less costly than re-incarcerating that person. (Paragraph 15)
    12. sentence (v): The judge sentenced me to 10 years in state prison. (Paragraph 11)
    13. suffice it to say (transition phrase): Although I was a successful student athlete and received a near full scholarship to play football for Lindenwood University, a Division II college football program, I found it difficult to get out of the drug business. Suffice it to say, there were people in the drug world who wanted me to keep moving drugs. And they made it clear that they would be extremely disappointed if I were to suddenly stop. (Paragraph 13)
    14. testament (n.): My own story stands as a testament to the fact that today’s incarcerated person could become tomorrow’s professor. (Paragraph 5)
    15. trafficking (n.): With three felony convictions, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking as a prior and persistent career criminal. (Paragraph 6)
    16. transformative (adj.): Education was transformative. (Paragraph 7)
    17. woefully (adv.): …education is woefully lacking among those being held in America’s jails and prisons. (Paragraph 16)
    18. would-be (adj.): A 2015 study found that nearly 66 percent of would-be undergraduates who disclosed a conviction on their college application did not finish their application. (Paragraph 24)

    Reading Process Activity for “I Went from Prison to Professor”

    Purpose

    The purpose of this activity is to activate your background knowledge and build your interest before reading an article so that you have a more engaging and efficient reading experience; to actively read the article; and to reflect on your reading process and understanding of the text.

    Preview the Article

    Print a copy of the article “I Went from Prison to Professor.” You will need to write on the paper copy of the article for this activity.

    Follow the steps below to preview the article. As you complete this activity, do not read the entire article. You will read the entire article later, after you have previewed it. Focus on previewing only the gray highlighted parts of the article. As you preview the article, record your thoughts in the margins of the printed copy of the article.

    1. Read the highlighted title, subtitle, and author’s bio.

    • What do they make you think about? What do you think the article is about? What do you already know about this topic? Record your ideas in the margin of the printed article.
    • What questions do you have based on the title, subtitle and author’s bio? Record your questions in the margin of the article.

    2. Read the highlighted paragraphs 1 and 7, which are the first and last sentences of the introduction. What predictions and questions do you have based on paragraphs 1 and 7? Record your predictions and questions in the margin of the article.

    3. The reading is divided into sections with headings. Read each bold heading and the first sentence or two of each section. What predictions and questions do you have based on your preview of each section? Record your ideas and questions in the margins next to each section of the article. You should note the following headings in the article:

    • U.S. incarceration rates the highest
    • Early life of crime
    • The transformative power of education
    • Rejected by colleges
    • Restore Pell grants to incarcerated people
    • Remove questions about drug crimes from federal aid forms

    4. Based on your preview of the article, what do you think is the central point of the article? (Don’t worry if you are not sure. This is just a prediction or guess – you do not have to be correct.)

    Actively Read and Annotate the Article

    You are finished previewing “I Went from Prison to Professor.” Now, actively read the article. As you read the article, do the following:

    • Consider whether or not your predictions were correct.
    • Use the preview questions you wrote to guide your reading and answer them (if the answers are in the text). You can record your responses directly on the article by annotating the text or by taking notes on a separate sheet of paper.
    • Paraphrase main points briefly in the margins of the article.
    • Mark unfamiliar vocabulary.

    I Went from Prison to Professor

    Here’s why criminal records should not be used to keep people out of college

    By Stanley Andrisse, published in 2018

    Dr. Stanley Andrisse is the executive director of From Prison Cells to PhD, Inc. This organization helps formerly incarcerated people obtain higher education. He is also Assistant Professor of Medicine at Howard University. In this informational text, Dr. Andrisse discusses access to higher education for people who are, or previously were, incarcerated.

    As you read, take notes related to the questions you wrote and the predictions you made when you previewed the article. Consider how education can impact incarcerated individuals.

    1Beginning in 2019, the Common Application — an online form that enables students to apply to the 800 or so colleges that use it — will no longer ask students about their criminal pasts.

    2As a formerly incarcerated person who now is an endocrinologist and professor at two world renowned medical institutions — Johns Hopkins Medicine and Howard University College of Medicine — I believe this move is a positive one. People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.

    3While I am enthusiastic about the decision to remove the criminal history question from the Common Application, I also believe more must be done to remove the various barriers that exist between formerly incarcerated individuals such as myself and higher education.

    4I make this argument not only as a formerly incarcerated person who now teaches aspiring medical doctors, but also as an advocate for people with criminal convictions. The organization I lead — From Prison Cells to PhD — helped push for the change on the Common Application.

    5My own story stands as a testament to the fact that today’s incarcerated person could become tomorrow’s professor. A person who once sold illegal drugs on the street could become tomorrow’s medical doctor. But this can only happen if such a person, and the many others in similar situations, are given the chance.

    6There was a time not so long ago when some in the legal system believed I did not deserve a chance. With three felony convictions, I was sentenced to 10 years in prison for drug trafficking as a prior and persistent career criminal. My prosecuting attorney once stated that I had no hope for change.

    7Today, I am Dr. Stanley Andrisse. As a professor at Johns Hopkins and Howard University, I now help train students who want to be doctors. I’d say that I have changed. Education was transformative.

    US incarceration rates the highest

    8The United States needs to have more of this transformative power of education. The country incarcerates more people and at a higher rate than any other nation in the world. The U.S. accounts for less than 5 percent of the world population but nearly 25 percent of the incarcerated population around the globe.

    9Roughly 2.2 million people in the United States are essentially locked away in cages. About 1 in 5 of those people are locked up for drug offenses.

    10I was one of those people in prison not so long ago.

    Early life of crime

    11Growing up in the Ferguson, North St. Louis area, I started selling drugs and getting involved with other crimes at a very young age. I was arrested for the first time at age 14. By age 17, I was moving substantial amounts of drugs across the state of Missouri and the country. By my early 20s, I found myself sitting in front of a judge and facing 20 years to life for drug trafficking charges. The judge sentenced me to 10 years in state prison.

    12When I stood in front of that judge, school was not really my thing.

    13Although I was a successful student athlete and received a near full scholarship to play football for Lindenwood University, a Division II college football program, I found it difficult to get out of the drug business. Suffice it to say, there were people in the drug world who wanted me to keep moving drugs. And they made it clear that they would be extremely disappointed if I were to suddenly stop. So I continued. For this reason, I didn’t view my undergraduate college experience the way I view education now.

    The transformative power of education

    14Education provides opportunities for people with criminal records to move beyond their experience with the penal system and reach their full potential. The more education a person has, the higher their income. Similarly, the more education a person has, the less likely they are to return to prison.

    15A 2013 analysis of several studies found that obtaining higher education reduced recidivism — the rate of returning to prison — by 43 percent and was four to five times less costly than re-incarcerating that person. The bottom line is education increases personal income and reduces crime.

    16Despite these facts, education is woefully lacking among those being held in America’s jails and prisons. Nearly 30 percent of America’s incarcerated — about 690,000 people — are released each year and only 60 percent of those individuals have a GED or high school diploma, compared to 90 percent of the overall U.S. population over age 25. And less than 3 percent of the people released from incarceration each year have a college degree, compared to 40 percent of the U.S. population.

    Rejected by colleges

    17I had a bachelor’s degree by the time I went to prison but never got the chance to put it to use. Then something tragic happened while I was serving time that prompted me to see the need to further my education. Due to complications of diabetes, my father had his legs amputated. He fell into a coma and lost his battle with Type 2 diabetes. I was devastated. This experience made me want to learn more about how to fight this disease.

    18While incarcerated, I applied to six biomedical graduate programs. I was rejected from all but one — Saint Louis University. Notably, I had a mentor from Saint Louis University who served on the admission committee. Without that personal connection, I’m not sure I would have ever gotten a second chance.

    19I finished near the top of my graduate school class, suggesting that I was likely qualified for the programs that rejected me.

    Restore Pell grants to incarcerated people

    20Based on the difficulty I experienced in going from prison to becoming a college professor, I believe there are things that should be done to remove barriers for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated people who wish to pursue higher education.

    21One of those barriers is cost. When the government removed Pell funding from prisons by issuing the “tough on crime” Law Enforcement Act of 1994, the vast majority of colleges offering courses in prison stopped. Due to the federal ban on receiving Pell grants while incarcerated, most of those serving time are not able to afford to take college courses while in prison. The Obama administration took a step toward trying to restore Pell grants for those in prison with the Second Chance Pell pilot. The program has given over 12,000 incarcerated individuals across the nation the chance to use Pell grants toward college courses in prison.

    22Through the program, 67 colleges and universities are working with over 100 prisons to provide college courses to the incarcerated.

    23This program is at-risk of being discontinued at the end of 2018. Historically, some have argued that allowing Pell dollars to be used by those in prison takes precious Pell dollars from people who did not violate the law. However, the current Second Chance Pell pilot funding being directed to prisons, $30 million, accounts for 0.1 percent of the total $28 billion of Pell funding. Even if the program were expanded, based on historical levels, it would still amount to one-half of 1 percent of all Pell funding. This is justified by the impact that Pell dollars would have in prison in terms of reducing recidivism.

    Remove questions about drug crimes from federal aid forms

    24Federal policymakers could increase opportunities by removing Question 23 on the federal student aid form that asks if applicants have been convicted of drug crimes. A 2015 study found that nearly 66 percent of would-be undergraduates who disclosed a conviction on their college application did not finish their application.

    25Federal student aid applicants likely feel the same discouragement. I felt discouraged myself when I was applying to graduate programs when I came across the question about whether I had ever been convicted of a crime. It made me feel like I was nothing more than a criminal in the eyes of the college gatekeepers.

    26This question also disproportionately affects people of color, since people of color are disproportionately impacted by the criminal justice system. Furthermore, the question runs the risk of making formerly incarcerated people feel isolated and less valuable than those who’ve never gotten in trouble with the law.

    27When people who have been incarcerated begin to feel like they don’t belong and higher education is not for them, our nation will likely not be able to realize their potential and hidden talents.

    28It will be as if we have locked them up and thrown away the key.


    Reflect after Reading the Article

    Record your responses to the questions below in complete sentences.

    1. Now that you have read the article, what is Stanley Andrisse’s main point? Write it in your own words.
    2. Why do you think Stanley Andrisse wrote the article? (What was his purpose?)
    3. Were your predictions about the article correct? Which ones were accurate, and which ones did you revise as you read the article?
    4. As you previewed the article, you wrote questions. What questions do you still have after reading the article? What else do you want to know about the article, the author, or topic of the reading?
    5. How did previewing the article help with your understanding of the text?

    Reading & Response

    Instructions

    1. Read the article, “I went from prison to professor” by Stanley Andrisse. As you read, annotate the article. Take notes about the main idea, your reactions, and questions that you may have.
    2. After reading, complete a one-paragraph summary of the article. The summary should include the author’s name, article title, and the overall main idea. Additionally, it is helpful to focus on the who, what, where, why, when, and how of the article to develop your summary. The ideas should be paraphrased and written in your own words.
    3. Write a developed, one-paragraph response to the article. Develop a clear statement of your position or point of view on the ideas expressed in the article. Be sure to clearly explain and support your response. You may also consider using a particular quote from the article to use in your response. If using a quote, work to incorporate the quote smoothly into the response. Be sure to cite the quote using in-text citations, as well as including a works cited entry.
      • As an example: I agree with his statement, “…education is woefully lacking among those being held in America’s jails and prisons” (Andrisse). From there, you would expand on your ideas to explain and support why you agree with this statement

    Suggestions for Writing

    1. Plan your summary and response before writing them. Review the notes that you have made regarding the article. Then, use a writing process that you are comfortable with that can include brainstorming, freewriting, listing, outlining, mapping, pre-thinking, pre-writing, etc.
    2. Aim to use conventional grammar and sentence structure and to make the tone of your essay professional, not casual.
    3. Edit your work before submitting it.

    2.2: Read and Understand- Prison to Professor is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

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