My name is Joandus Olivas, currently incarcerated.
The question is whether you receive a better education in college or in prison. Which of the two ensures that for sure success later in life? Which of the two enhances your will to survive in any location: post-completion of your academic term or completion of your prison term?
According to the Latin definition of education, which is the origination of the word, it means to draw out or bring out of a place and to lead. I found this definition out the hard way when I received a life sentence at 16 years of age. So as Malcolm X said, prison is the black man’s university. No lie. This is the fact for me.
In college, you may take a class pertaining to race relations; you may study the history of bigotry, racism, and prejudice. How ironic. This was my first lesson in prison at 17 years old when two officers refused to provide me shoes. My response was: give me my respect. The officers responded: blacks aren’t born with respect. My eyes threatened to shed tears, but my pride wouldn’t allow me. Coming from juvenile hall, this was a rude awakening and firsthand knowledge of the real world. I never was blessed with attending a prestigious school such as Yale or Harvard, but I did get transferred to a maximum facility prison in the state’s capital, a place called New Folsom.
My next lesson was reverse psychology. It seems as if this was everyone’s major, and it seemed as if everyone was experimenting with this. Don’t you do this when you’re trying to receive your Bachelor’s? I’m unsure, never been to college. I only know what I heard: the best professors, debaters, and orators I met freshman year. They were located in administrative segregation housing units, or what we call the hole. I received so much literature and wrote so many essays when I was there. My head hurts to this day. Niccolo Machiavelli’s “the Prince” for political science on top of crafting a better knife. “Art of Seduction” by Robert Green, which is outdated by then, Stephen Covey’s “Speed of Trust,” “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” Swahili, Arabic, the Bible, the Koran, exercise routines, cell extractions, hunger strikes, physical altercations, fractured orbitals, suicides, and death.
It’s been 11 years now. I’m 27. I received my Masters this year, despite COVID. My fellow peers say I excelled pretty fast. The jailhouse sages are impressed as well. As for myself? I’m not satisfied, so I devoured all knowledge placed before me. But most importantly, as the Egyptians said, I seek the knowledge of self more than anything.
Are prisons better than colleges? This repeated question is continuous in my mind. It seems they are. I mean, There are more prisons than colleges. It costs more to house me here in prison than it does to house me in a college dorm. But many of my peers don’t possess the positive paradigm on this education subject.
Some are elusive to this, for they’re everything society deems them. How unfortunate, but I’ve done my best to counter society’s stereotypical way of viewing the prisoner. After completing this term and receiving parole eligibility, hopefully in the near future, I’ll be the walking, talking, breathing, answer to these questions: do you receive a better education in college or in prison?