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Featured Article

by Robert McCandless

Featured Article

    I was told by my newly found friend, Frank, that there was a way to finagle the college classes I needed to draw my GI Bill checks. I had just arrived at the Walls Unit to work for the vocational school system that served the prison. Most inmates took one or two classes so it would look good on their papers come parole time. back then the classes were free, and I couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't want to fill this otherwise totally wasted time in their lives with knowledge much less make their time seem to pass quicker by filling it with activity. But then I was different and so were my newly found cronies. I was also motivated by the GI Bill checks that came in the mail and whose amount was determined by the number of classes I took. I also had a goal to graduate before I paroled the 25-year sentence I was given. Three classes were the maximum one could take. they were offered as Monday-Wednesday night, Tuesday-Thursday night and Friday night-Saturday morning classes to be attended on our free time, after we got off work. Classes were small due to lack of interest for the most part, but also due to the powers to be selecting only those who kept out of trouble and were willing to learn.

    Frank told me the way to get what I wanted was to see Scroggs. Scroggs was an inmate who took care of all the bookwork in the education department for the unit's education director. Frank consulted with me first to see that I wanted a full load of classes and was willing to pay a little extra to get them. After this was confirmed, he contacted Scroggs and let him know to be expecting me. My appointment with Scroggs was intimate. We shared a few street stories and then discussed the classes I wanted. He then went on to tell me not to screw up, that the loss of this privilege would also land me back in a hoe squad on a work farm. After signing me up he handed me a slip of paper with a list of things that I was to procure for him at the commissary. It amounted to five bags of coffee, a caron of cigarettes, and 30 postage stamps. For 25 dollars I would draw over 1000 in GI Bill checks for the semester. Capitalism at its finest. I was on my way. Our friendship and business venture continued two more years till Scroggs made parole. By that time, I had proven myself as a serious student to the prison authorities and the college and was able to sign up for as many classes as I liked without having to pay. 

    It was illegal and Scroggs and I could have been busted for it. Not many inmates were ambitious enough to take advantage of this educational opportunity. The system allowed those who were willing to better themselves, a way of doing it at a very small cost. In essence it kept riff-raff and those who wanted nothing more than a feather in their parole cap out of the program. 

    Scroggs didn't attend college. 

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