By Robert Wood, Senior Social Media Advisor – The Prison Scholar Fund

At the current time (as I write this article), I’m in the SHU (Special Housing Unit) inside the United States Penitentiary at Lompoc, California.  I have been in here for nearly three months pending investigation for a matter I’m certain I’ll be exonerated of soon.  SHU is a disciplinary housing unit within the federal prison system.  You are locked in your cell 24 hours a day except on days when you get time for recreation.  On those days you’re only confined to your cell 23 hours a day.  Your shower and toilet are inside your cell.  Your food is passed to you through a slot in the door and so is anything else they need to give you.  You’re handcuffed anytime you leave or re-enter the cell for any reason.  Your books and study materials are limited to fictional novels and religious or spiritual material.  No study materials beyond that.  However, it is possible to do academic type studies in these situations.  You can actually have study time any time.

During this SHU time I’ve done a lot of thinking, spiritual studies and reflection, and of course, some writing.  I usually always have studies of business and writing ongoing even if it’s not through a formal curriculum or college course.  When I first landed in SHU I decided that other than my spiritual studies I would just kick back.  My intellectual thirst dictated that I do more.  That’s when I decided to utilize the various memory tools I employ in nearly all my studies to facilitate my academic appetite while I’m in SHU.  These include, but are not limited to, the following: mnemonic memory aids such as words or short phrases which help you remember stuff i.e. START – Start Taking an Alternative Route Today; memory rooms, where you create a room in your mind and put huge pictures on the walls, ceiling, floor, and in the corners to help you visually remember things; flashcards created from recent memory to refresh your memory as needed; and of course mental review, where you periodically review things you need to keep fresh in your mind.  All of these techniques will create deeper memories of important material for you, and provided you already know the material, retention will optimize your applicability in the future.

I have used the methods I’ve referred to for the achievement of my most important academic goals.  These include earning an A.A. in sociology and graduating magna cum laude with Bachelors of Science in both Marketing and Small Business Management.  In the spirit of full disclosure, the Prison Scholar Fund assisted me financially in those endeavors.  I realize that you can study and move forward mentally in any situation.

Upon my release I will put these techniques to use in pursuit of my MBA in business entrepreneurship.  In moments when your mind would normally wander use that time to review mentally.  This is great for use in long lines like those at grocery stores, traffic courts, or crowded restaurants.  Regardless of the situation, through imagination, discipline, and perseverance, you can have study time any time…even now!