Blackstone helps inmates prepare for a legal career while in prison

Textbook used in Blackstone Career Institute’s paralegal program for prisoners.

Ambitious inmates who want to lay the groundwork for employment after release might want to consider studying a paralegal course. And they won’t be alone.

They will join Fabian Ruiz – who we profiled October 31 and who now works for a criminal law practice – and hundreds of other current and former prisoners, who have taken The Allentown, Pa.-based Blackstone Career Institute’s Correspondence Paralegal Program for Inmates.

“At any given moment we have more than 1,200 inmates actively involved in our paralegal program,” says Kevin McCloskey, the institute’s president. “Over the years we’ve delivered product into 1,800 correctional facilities.”

Originally founded in 1890 as a law school, the Blackstone Career Institute changed its focus to preparing paralegals in the late 1970s. Its inmate program is designed to be completed the old-fashioned way, using soft covered books and materials shipped directly to the inmates by U.S. mail. All materials needed for the courses are provided, and no computer or Internet access is required.

How it works

The institute sends out a packet to prospective students that includes a checklist with what they will have to go through with their correctional institution in order to take a correspondence course.

Once accepted into the program, students receive a 10-volume set of texts, totaling nearly 2,150 pages. They will also receive a law glossary and law dictionary, as well as texts on legal research and writing, ethics and job search techniques.

Students must pass 31 tests and complete six writing samples, all of which are supplied by Blackstone to be returned in pre-addressed envelopes. They can also submit questions by mail.

Tuition for inmates comes to $767, which can be paid in one payment or 12 monthly payments with no finance charge. Usually someone on the outside pays the tuition, but because Blackstone is an accredited institution, inmates who are veterans can take advantage of the Montgomery G.I. Bill.

After completing the paralegal course, which according to McCloskey takes on average 14 months, the inmates can study up to eight advanced courses. These courses cover personal injury/torts; family law; wills, trusts, and estates; criminal law; civil litigation; business and corporate law; real estate law; and practical bankruptcy law.

McCloskey estimates that 20 percent to 25 percent of inmates continue with one or more of the advanced classes, the most popular being, not surprisingly, criminal law. “And who better to work in a criminal law firm?” says McCloskey. “If a criminal attorney can latch onto an ex-offender who has paralegal training, it’s a great combination for them to have on their staff.”

Although convicted felons in most cases cannot become paralegals, they can serve as legal researchers and, thanks to what they’ve learned in the program, they will be more job-ready than most other inmates upon their release.

For more information on Blackstone Career Institute’s program for prisoners visit www.blackstone.edu

For information on the paralegal field visit www.paralegals.org and www.nala.org

 

Posted in Job Training.

14 Comments

  1. I have a son who is an inmate in a Texas Prison. He is interested in paralegal but he can not use the computer in the unit he is in. I would like to know if i sent you his address can you forward some information on a paralegal course.
    Your information would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank You

  2. hello, may I have a brochure of all your classes? I have a son in prison. also a grandson who just graduated. He lives with me. Can you get subsidized loans for this school and fasfa grants. Please.

  3. Hi my name is Adrian Muldrow and I’m new to leaving comments on blogs. But I have to chime in and give credit where credit is due ! And I have nothing but high regard for Blackstone. I took the course in Jessup ,Md. about 15 years ago after being wrongfully convicted and sentenced to Life and 20 years in prison. I was blessed to learn how to research case law , shepardize , prepare motions in Civil , Criminal , Tort , etc. pretty much the basic fundamentals. All of which enabled me to work with Attorneys handling my Appeal. And through the grace of GOD we won ! Since then been committed in working with children , families and communities in Baltimore City .To hear more of my story email me wcapbcnaacp@gmail.com.

  4. Need to know how an inmate signs up or if you can send him information on how to start the classes. There is no computer where he is. How do I get information sent to him about how to do this.

  5. I enrolled in the paralegal course in 2007 while I was incarcerated and confined to solitary confinement and I was able to obtain the paralegal certificate.

  6. The nature of the course material,i.e. The fact that all of the books are soft cover, makes it difficult for prison officials to dispute participation in the course.

  7. I am incarcerated in a florida jail facility and I would like to receive information pertaining to the courses offered through the mail. Thank You in advance for your cooperation.

  8. Having become immersed in litigation to rectify harsh conditions in prison, my area of knowledge was somewhat confined. Blackstone’s paralegal course helped me broaden my field of knowledge to encompass areas of the law otherwise beyond my experience. I’m highly appreciative.

  9. The price of the course is a pittance when contrasted with the potential yield. Plus, idle hands in prison…an inmate’s family should jump at this if they can in any way afford it. I paid for my course with money garnered in litigation. I’ve always said, if you can bring a prison attorney to the point of settlement, it’s no longer a hobby. That’s a professional skill.

  10. I just wanted to let families of inmates know that there is life after prison and Blackstone Career played a part for me. I was released from prison on November 25, 2014 and began working as a Paralegal on January 11, 2015, having completed my Paralegal Studies with BCI. It has been 6 months since I began working for this office and I am confident in saying that my insight to the legal system from the “other side” is a valued asset to our attorneys. I do not believe that “everything happens for a reason.” I do believe, however, that any situation can work to my betterment IF I choose to make it so. I decided to make use of my 3-year prison sentence even before I was sentenced. I researched BCI while out on bond with an ankle bracelet and decided to commit to the Paralegal Studies. All said and done, this entire experience was the best thing that has ever happened to me!

  11. I graduated from Blackstone January 2015. I’ve been in prison since I was 16 yrs old for a robbery. After I realized that no matter how well I programmed and stayed out of trouble the parole board wasn’t going to let me out any time before the end of my 25 year sentence, I took a look into the law.

    When my judge saw my petition he didn’t even allow the state to respond and set (3) deadlines and a hearing date to grant me relief after 20 yrs of imprisonment. My petition implicates relief entitled to many others because the State through their charging discretion and the courts through judicial construction have been repealing and redrafting laws to subject individuals to more convictions and sentences than the legislature actually intended to allow.

    My judge, who I’m sure was inclined to give me relief, was forced to retire a month before my scheduled court date and the reassigned judge took my court date away and dismissed my petition. I’m now on appeal where the appellate court has set up a second line of defence for the State by raising procedural bars and attempting to avoid the merits of my petition for relief because to address them is to acknowledge the impact this behavior has had on the lives of many people and the overall criminal justice system in Alabama period (i.e., the overcrowding in Alabama prisons). As of this date 11-3-15 I’m on application for rehearing and then to the Alabama Supreme Court I go.

    The understanding of the law and it’s principles I owe to the knowledge and insight I gained from Blackstone Career Institute which propelled me into further education and study in the science of law.

    Anyone interested in my story and/or want to contact me, my info is:
    Isadore Petite
    AIS# 204046
    PO Box 5107
    Union Springs, AL 36089

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