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An open book in front of two separate stacks of books; concept of education in prison
Photo by Elisa Calvet B. on Unsplash

We all know that the mind is a terrible thing to waste. So, in order to cultivate a healthy mind, you must feed it healthy things. You have to be cautious of what you allow to fill your head. Remember: Put good in and get good out.

There are lots of things a person can fill their mind with during incarceration. Some good, some bad. It is what you allow to infiltrate it that will determine the course of your imprisonment. You can make the time worthwhile or worthless. I chose the former.

Since our vocational classes are free, I enrolled in three of those. Since some college courses are free, I took those as well. Why not? It cost me nothing to better myself and learn something that could prove beneficial to me upon my reentry into a society that ostracized and marginalized me and will likely do so again. 

How could I not want to show them that I am more than their preconceived notions? More than the negative title given me?

I also intend to pass on the education I acquire to my children and grandchildren. Knowledge is power, and I want my descendants to be powerful — stronger and wiser than I could ever be.

This takes focus and willpower. Set goals for yourself and strive to accomplish them. It can be difficult in such an environment, but you have to find a suitable method and follow its course. In a jail or prison, there is rarely any alone time or even quiet time to study. So you must make a way out of no way. Personally, I keep my fan running and it helps to drown out all of the background noise. Some people learn best to the beat of music playing in the background. Whatever works best for you, stick with it. Find your zone and get into it.

Alongside college and vocational classes, there are a variety of correspondence courses. I am currently enrolled in two, but have taken up to five at one time. Some are free, some come with a cost. But I feel the cost is worth it just for the knowledge I gain. There are payment plans available to assist you with any costs that may be attached.

Our library is full of resources and great books to aid us in our quest for knowledge. Reading is fundamental and cultivates the mind in ways nothing else can. You can get lost in a good book; it can take you out of these concrete walls and into a new and better world.

I desire to be outside of these walls physically, but in the meantime, I will travel mentally to another plateau.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Chanell Burnette is a writer incarcerated in Virginia.