For many years friends and family members of federal prisoners have bemoaned the lack of transparency and public information concerning the Federal Bureau of Prisons' operations. They have lamented not being able to easily visit their loved ones, the seemingly ever-changing inmate correspondence addresses (not to mention correspondence policies), and how unresponsive prison officials have been when contacted. Journalists, too, have voiced their frustrations concerning the Bureau's unofficial policy of media blackouts, which include not only refusing to answer questions about their prisons and the events that transpire within them, but also refusing to acknowledge receipt of correspondence or communications from journalists at all. This is particularly the case when journalists are seeking to interview or speak with incarcerated persons.
Christopher Zoukis, the author of the recently released Directory of Federal Prisons: PrisonLawBlog.com's Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory
(Middle Street Publishing, 2014), has engaged in a campaign to hinder the Bureau's efforts at silence and inaction. He's doing so by providing others with the essential tool of information. Simply, he has penned an e-book -- of which I'm a co-author -- which provides friends, family members, and attorneys of federal prisoners, not to mention journalists, with information concerning every federal prison and private prison that houses federal inmates. He has done so in the hopes of opening a door into federal incarceration, connecting families to their incarcerated loved ones, friends to their incarcerated friends, and attorneys to their incarcerated clients, and ensuring that no man or woman incarcerated in federal prison is ever cut off from the world outside of prison.
Q) Please introduce yourself and your work to the AND Magazine readership.
My name is Christopher Zoukis and I'm the author of Education Behind Bars: A Win-Win Strategy for Maximum Security
(Sunbury Press, 2012) and the forthcoming College for Convicts
(McFarland & Company, 2015). I'm also the co-author of the Directory of Federal Prisons: PrisonLawBlog.com's Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory
(Middle Street Publishing, 2014). On top of this, I'm a contributing writer at Prison Legal News (www.prisonlegalnews.org) -- the world's foremost prison law and prisoners' rights publication -- Blog Critics, and I'm also the founder of prisoneducation.com and prisonlawblog.com. So, I stay fairly busy and active in the prison law and prisoners' rights arenas.
Q) Tell us about the Directory of Federal Prisons.
A) The Directory of Federal Prisons
is a shorter, functional e-book which provides basic character profiles and contact information for every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons and every private contract prison that houses federal inmates. The character profiles include each prison's security level, the gender of the prisoners, federal judicial district, population number, and if there is an adjacent satellite prison camp or not. The contact information includes phone number, fax number, email address, street address, and inmate correspondence address.
Q) Who is this book for?
A) The Directory of Federal Prisons
is for everyone who knows anyone in federal prison. In particular, this text will serve family members and friends of federal prisoners, attorneys who have clients in federal prison, and journalists who cover the prison or criminal justice beats.
Q) Why should people buy the Directory of Federal Prisons?
Members of these groups should purchase a copy of the Directory of Federal Prisons
because of the security and peace of mind that owning this book provides. There truly is nothing as scary as a loss of communication with a family member, and the reality is that the Federal Bureau of Prisons thinks nothing of moving prisoners without notice. This is especially the case in times of crisis. Owning such a book, they can feel confident that whenever a need arises, contact information will be available. As long as a copy of the e-book is on a person's e-reader, they will never lose contact with a friend, loved one, or client in federal prison ever again.
Q) Where is the Directory of Federal Prisons available for sale and in what formats?
It is available wherever e-books are sold and in all major e-book formats. Also, as the Federal Bureau of Prisons changes the contact information of existing prisons, inks new contracts with private prison companies, and activates new federal prisons, the Directory of Federal Prisons will be updated. At a minimum, this will occur once a year. This way those who rely on the text will always have the latest information at their fingertips.
Q) You said that the Federal Bureau of Prisons often engages in an unofficial policy of media blackout. If the Bureau is just going to ignore such requests from the news media, how will the Directory of Federal Prisons help?
Having multiple points of contact is essential. The journalist could first call, fax, or email the prison's administration. If no response is garnered, they could then use the inmate correspondence address information to write directly to the prisoner in question. These letters won't be censored and the prisoner in question will most likely respond. Then, the prisoner can file a written request for the interview to be conducted. If the prison administration still refuses, the journalist can coordinate with the federal prisoner to file an administrative remedy, which should result in a response being made by the prison's warden or executive assistant. These multiple contact points really do make all the difference in the world.
Q) Why is the Directory of Federal Prisons only available in an e-book format?
This decision was made due to functionality and cost considerations. The Directory of Federal Prisons
isn't the type of text that is required on a regular basis. As such, having a book somewhere really doesn't fulfill its purpose because the reader then has to go locate the book in order to use it, however often or seldom, they require it. But having the e-book file on an e-reader allows the reader/user to simply access the information when needed. It literally is at hand because they'll already be using the e-book reader for their regular needs. Likewise, the user/reader can use the e-reader's search function to locate the exact information desired.
As for cost, the e-book format allows us to quickly, accurately, and inexpensively update the e-book on a regular basis. Updates can be made within days of Federal Bureau of Prisons' action and the distribution of the updates take only a week or two to reflect in online stores. This allows Middle Street Publishing to keep the cost of the e-book low, thus ensuring that prisoners' families, who are often financially overburdened as is, won't have to fork over more money when a more economical product is currently available.
Q) What's next for you? Any new books or projects on the horizon?
A) Lots. At the moment, I'm in discussions with North Law Publishers concerning an e-book about the Alleyne case, a federal criminal case which has the potential to effect many thousands of past, current, and future federal drug cases. I'm also in discussions with North Law Publishing concerning a book which will provide in-depth profiles of every federal prison and private prison that houses federal inmates. While this project will cover some of the same ground as the Directory of Federal Prisons, it will be much, much more expansive and detailed, and it will be available in print and e-book formats.
Whereas the Directory of Federal Prisons is spot-on with its concise detail and functionality, this upcoming project will be useful in other applications, due to its expansive detail and comprehensive nature.
Outside of this project, there are several others kicking around my mind. One is a prison fitness book, tentatively entitled Total Prison Fitness
. This book I'm co-authoring with former U.S. Field Hockey goaltender Todd Broxmeyer. I also have a prison survival text in the works and a book which profiles correspondence programs accessible to prisoners. I'm currently in discussions with Middle Street Publishing concerning the correspondence course guide, which is tentatively titled College for the Incarcerated
As for articles, I'm putting in a lot of time and effort writing for Prison Legal News at the moment. I really respect the work Paul Wright and Alex Friedmann are doing at PLN. They recently moved their office to Lake Worth, Florida, and with this move has come a big push to expand the publication and to increase their court case efforts on behalf of their incarcerated readers. Recent battles have included fighting post card-only jail and prison correspondence policies and even a successful petition to have the FCC regulate the current extortionate environment in prison telecommunications.
These are initiatives that I can, and do, get behind.
Q) How can readers and fans learn more about your current and future projects?
The easiest way to stay abreast of my work is to sign up for the email updates at christopherzoukis.com, prisoneducation.com, and prisonlawblog.com. If readers are interested in all three of these arenas (i.e., myself as a writer, my prison education advocacy work, and my prisoners' rights and prison law work) then they should sign up for updates at all three locations.
If readers are interested in reading my work in print, I regularly contribute to Prison Legal News. This is a monthly print magazine which focuses on prison law and prisoners' rights. Subscriptions can be ordered at www.prisonlegalnews.org. Sample issues can also be obtained at their website. I am a strong supporter of Prison Legal News and the vital work they engage in.
Q) Can readers and fans write to you directly?
They most certainly can. I can be reached at the following address:
- Christopher Zoukis
- FCI Petersburg
- P.O. Box 1000, #22132-058
- Petersburg, VA 23804