Interview with 'Directory of Federal Prisons' Christopher Zoukis

 Christopher Zoukis is an impassioned advocate for prison education, a legal scholar, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and articles.  His articles on prison education and prison law appear frequently in Prison Legal News, and have been published in The Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, and Midwest Book Review, among other national, regional, and specialty publications.

Mr. Zoukis is often quoted on matters concerning prison law, criminal law, prisoners’ rights, and prison education.  Recently, he was the focus of an article at Salon.com concerning America’s broken criminal justice system and potential solutions to the current crisis.

When not in the thick of the battle for prison reform, prison education, or prisoners’ rights advocacy, Mr. Zoukis can be found blogging at PrisonLawBlog.com, PrisonEducation.com, and ChristopherZoukis.com.

The DIRECTORY OF FEDERAL PRISONS: PrisonLawBlog.com’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Facility Directory by Christopher Zoukis and Dr. Randall Radic is a comprehensive, yet succinct, guide to the contact information and basic character profile information of every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, plus all private prisons under contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons to house federal inmates.

It is an essential guide for everyone who knows anyone incarcerated within the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and sets the standard for basic character profiles and contact information for the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

This electronic guidebook enables attorneys, family members and friends of federal prisoners, journalists, government officials, prison volunteers, and members of the general public to quickly locate the contact information and inmate correspondence address of every prison within the Federal Bureau of Prisons and every private prison which houses federal inmates.

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Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we'd love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us to the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

A: The idea for the Directory of Federal Prisons was a natural outgrowth of my prison education and prisoners' rights advocacy.  In my work, I regularly field questions from prisoners' families, friends, attorneys, and even journalists who either need to get in contact with a federal prisoner or are in search of basic character profile information about a specific federal prison.  In an effort to help these diverse groups -- and more importantly, help keep families together -- I decided to compile the Directory of Federal Prisons.  The goal was to produce a product which would help connect people outside of federal prison with those inside.  I believe that this goal has been accomplished.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

A: I think that presenting any type of detailed information is a challenge, but with adequate planning and forethought, a book like the Directory of Federal Prisons isn't that challenging to write.  It's more time-consuming, if anything.  It was also a bit frustrating ensuring that all of the details were correct.  This due to how much is riding on every single address.  It certainly weighed on me that if I made any errors, that it was prisoners' families that would suffer.  So, I checked and double checked and tripled checked everything.

As for advice for other writers, planning is essential.  When compiling a directory, the writer really has to get all of their research in order from the start, then plan how to incorporate it to ensure that the end product is both accurate and uniform.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

A: The Directory of Federal Prisons was published by Middle Street Publishing.  I would call our agreement with them to be co-publishing.  Middle Street Publishing owns PrisonEducation.com and PrisonLawBlog.com, two platforms that I regularly contribute to, and have a voice in as to direction and content.  As such, we effectively published ourselves with their backing.  This has worked out very well for us since both Dr. Randy Radic and myself regularly write and advocate in the social justice arena.  In a way, the Directory of Federal Prisons is simply an outgrowth of our regular prison education and prisoners' rights advocacy.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

A: To start, this is not my first book.  My first book was Education Behind Bars (Sunbury Press, 2012).  In it I present the arguments for educating America's incarcerated class.  The Directory of Federal Prisons would be my second book, but it has been much more hands-on for me due to the collaborative nature of our publishing agreement with Middle Street Publishing.  In this light, doing things like guest posting on blogs, optimizing Amazon product details, connecting with fans on Goodreads and LibraryThing, orchestrating ad campaigns, and even creating web pages on our websites for the Directory of Federal Prisons has been a new, and exhausting experience.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

A: I have several irons in the fire.  Several months ago I signed a contract with McFarland and Company for my next prison education book College for Convicts.  That book will be released in 2015.  I'm also in discussions with Zharmae Publishers concerning my science fiction novel Hamish.  I'm also in discussions with North Law Publishers about a legal ebook titled The Aftermath of Alleyne, and Dr. Radic and myself are in discussions with Headpress about a book which profiles the Bloods gang.  So, I have lots of exciting projects keeping me busy.

Q: What's your favorite place to hang out online?

A: For the most part, I spend most of my time at PrisonEducation.com and PrisonLawBlog.com, but I also write on my own personal website at ChristopherZoukis.com and regularly contribute to Blog Critics.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

A: Just because people are in prison does not mean that they deserve to be cut off from their families, children, and friends.  People break the law and go to prison.  That much is certain.  But they will one day be released.  The question we as a people need to be asking ourselves is if we want to help them overcome their demons while in prison, or if we want these prisoners to be further damaged before they are released from custody, maybe in worse shape than when they came in.  We have an opportunity to make prisoners better people, reduce crime, victimization, and spending on corrections, and to release these prisoners as contributing members of society.  But in order to do so, we have to rethink the way we deal with our prisoners.  When education is reduced, treatment programs are shuttered, and felon disenfranchisement is legislatively promoted, we're contributing to the problem, not to the solution.  This must be changed, and drastically

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

A: Thanks for the opportunity.  If readers would like to keep up with my social justice advocacy work, they can visit PrisonEducation.com, PrisonLawBlog.com, or ChristopherZoukis.com.  Likewise, I regularly contribute to Prison Legal News.  There readers can learn more about prisoners' rights and social justice advocacy.
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