The education of prisoners is a topic that is riddled with complications.One of the major barriers in the way of prisoner education is public indifference and ignorance.It seems that people are almost happy to simply lock people away rather than actually confront problems such as recidivism and community reintegration.
Our paper argues that prisoner education is not only a good thing, but is necessary to fix the underlying problems within the United States prison system.
There is definitely a lack of education programs in our prison system today. Furthermore, even in those institutions that have education programs have many different problems such as; courses that are interrupted or terminated on the personal whims of prison administrators; the absence of libraries; waiting lists for programs; limited or no access to training in information technology; vocational courses that are dated paths to nowhere.
By looking at effective existing programs, field studies at Massachusetts prisons, and actual prisoner interviews we will attempt to outline a model program and argue that educating prisoners is a means by which to help save out failing prison system. As we have talked about in class, the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, but we also possess one of the highest crime rates. If the previous statement is true, there is an enormous problem with our system, and we believe that education is the key to solving it.
In order to properly critique our prison system it is important to look at existing educational and vocational programs in our area. The Massachusetts Department of Correction’s has a mission statement which reads, “The Massachusetts Department of Correction’s mission is to promote public safety by managing offenders while providing care and appropriate programming in preparation for successful reentry into the community. ” They do this by following their four step program “Manage – Care – Program – Prepare. We found that some of the programs offered may fit this mission, but others need tweaking. The first prison we decided to research was MCI Norfolk. MCI Norfolk utilizes a myriad of different programs, from adult basic education to Welding. However, the sheer number of programs offered does not always indicate a successful educational system. In our research we found that Norfolk, although possessing a wide verity of programs, is one of the worst educational programs in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.
However, MCI-Norfolk does offer a few programs that we thought were very unique and would be helpful in designing a model program. For example, MCI Norfolk offers a program called the “Responsible Fatherhood Program” which seeks to raise the awareness of male inmates’ parental responsibility. The program tries to emphasize the value and importance that a father’s presence can have on a child. The program lasts eight weeks and requires a minimum of eight hours of structured curriculum driven activities.
The RFP program works in three stages, with the ultimate goal of reunited father’s with their children, and strengthening their bond as father and child. The “Fatherhood Graduate Maintenance Program” is for graduates of the RFP program, which allows inmates to practice and discuss the skills they were taught in the previous stage. Once they have passed the FGMP stage, the inmate moves onto the Father/Child Visitation Component, which is a structured and staff facilitated visit for inmates who have completed the first two steps of the program.
What we liked about this program is not only that it seeks an important goal (preparing inmates to become better fathers), but it is very extensive and requires a lot of dedication from the inmate. Another program that we liked was the “Employment Readiness Program” which is a 10-day workshop that is designed to assist inmates in the development of the necessary skills that are needed for successful transition back into the community. The program runs 2. 5 hours per day for inmates who are within one year of their earliest possible release date.
Throughout the course the participants are taught; resume building, cover letter writing, job application processes, mock interviews and how to maintain employment. Also includes social support, housing plans, financial awareness and budgeting, education referrals, criminal impact and attainable goals. All of these skills are important to learn in order to find and maintain a job, and some inmates may have never learned these skills. Our biggest critique of the program is that it is far too short.
There are a lot of important skills listed in the program description, but 10-days at 2. 5 hours a day is not nearly enough time. Our suggestion is to run the same type of program, but offer it as a yearlong class. This class is offered at all of the Massachusetts Department of Corrections prisons, and we feel with the proper revamping, it could be a very successful program. The third existing program that we looked at was the Boston University Program. The program is designed to meet the needs of the students who have accumulated a minimum of twelve transferable college credits.
Students eligible to enter this program have an opportunity to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies from BU’s Metropolitan College. Although this program requires inmates to have already accumulated college credits (which most have not) we thought it was important to mention because this program is donated in full by Boston University. Many times over the semester we have seen that finding funding for prisoner education is difficult. Most people are hesitant to want to pay any amount of money to fund the education of criminals, and that is why programs like the Boston University program are so important.
If we can remove the stigma associated with prisoner education, finding funding will become easier, and more programs will be available. The final prison program we looked at was the Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center. As with MCI Norfolk, Souza-Baranowski offered many different programs, including; barber school, computer technology, culinary arts, educational counseling, English as a second language, and many more. However, like Norfolk, we found that Souza-Baranowski had certain programs that were unique to their facility.
The program that we thought was most unique and interesting was the “Relapse Program” which is a vendor facilitated eight week, twenty-four session program designed to assist inmates in identifying high risk situations that may lead to relapse, and teach them skills to address those situations without relapse. We thought this program was essential because using a prison as a detox center and never teaching addicts the skills they need to avoid relapse is ineffective. This program not only helps participants identify high risk situations, but helps them develop the skills they need to avoid or combat those situations.
Souza-Baranowski utilizes many different programs in order to educate their inmates, and that is part of the reason why we decided to do part of our field study at this location. Our fieldwork interview conducted by our Crime and Social Justice group focused on the Souza-Baranowski Corrections Center (SBCC) by speaking to their Education Principal. This facility, located in Shirley, MA, is considered a Maximum Security Level Prison. Sitting on top of 18 acres of land, the SBCC is one of Massachusetts’ newest correctional facilities holding close to 1300 inmates. The principal of the school, Mr. Brian Hogan, kindly volunteered his time and answered a few questions regarding the model education program available at the SBCC. Brian Hogan has held the position of principal of Souza-Baranowski Corrections Center since the prison’s founding in 1999. His experience as a public school teacher and as a case manager for the Department of Correction made him a qualified candidate for the position. The information he relayed to us about the SBCC education system as well as his opinions on the subject matter was very useful to our group in figuring out what works for prison education and what does not.
According to Mr. Hogan, the school in SBCC houses around 200 inmates and offers a variety of different classes for all levels of education. The elementary school classrooms, which ranges in grade levels from 2nd to 6th is in one classroom, while the 6th to 8th grade level students are in the Middle School Classroom. At the high school level, two classrooms exist; one with a pre-GED teacher and another with grades 9-12th. In addition to these basic classrooms, specialty teachers exist for the prisoners who might have more difficulty in the learning process such as literacy, ESL and special education classes.
Finally, the highest level of education available for the inmates is a limited amount of college courses available through a distance learning program and videoconferencing. In our interview, Brian Hogan thoroughly described the process necessary to be considered for the education program and the eligibility requirements for the prisoners. The MCI diagnostics department for basic educations tests all the offenders who wish to be considered for the educational program. Through this test, they determine his level based on their scores on language, math and reading exams.
Subsequently, the inmate’s name is placed on a waiting list while the education level is sufficiently evaluated and based on whether spots are available or not, this determines if they are enrolled as student in the school. All of the prisoners are eligible for a spot in the program, but certain circumstances create a higher likelihood of actually being chosen. SBCC is more likely to enroll inmates with smaller sentences as well as the ones that are closest to their release date. According to Mr. Hogan, the reason for this is to effectively reach out to the prisoner right before they are released into the community when they need it most. SBCC contains a wide variety of inmates and many who are at different points in their sentences. From men who are about to be released to others who might be doing life in jail, all kinds of inmates do exist in the facility. Although these prisoners doing life do get a shot at attending the prison school, they are definitely the least prioritized in receiving an education.
Even as least likely, these men are not completely excluded and one spot by SBCC is reserved in every classroom for a “lifer”. The education system is focused wholly on a voluntary basis for the inmates. No one officer or teacher exists that goes out and recruits the inmates or encourages them to join the school. The men are given the material: handbooks, outlines and all types of information about the school to attract their participation. Whether the inmates decide to apply for a vacancy or not is totally up to them.
SBCC does offer an incentive to encourage the prisoners to enroll. The incentive takes two and half days off the inmates’ sentence for every month he attends school. It should also be noted that this is all contingent upon the good behavior of the offender. As soon as he acts up, however, he is taken out of the classroom and not allowed to attend the education program any longer. One of the questions our group was interested in knowing more about concerned the funding and technology available to the prison in order to successfully to teach these prisoner students. As Mr. Hogan remarked, some funds do come from the Massachusetts State budget however, the program also depends on private state grants for a big portion of the money necessary to support the education program. The prison’s technology resources are relatively well-off with two to three computers, with no internet connection, available in each classroom. Additionally, different software programs are also available for these students such as spelling and keyboard software as well as GED preparation software. The ESL learners also have the benefit of Rosetta Stone to aid them in learning English.
In Hogan’s opinion, SBCC’s school can be considered as “cutting edge in education” for prisons. He believes that recent years has brought about a new focus and shift directed towards college classes, where 15 of the 200 men enrolled in education classes are currently capable of taking college-level courses and work towards an Associates’ degree. The school has helpful teachers who are experienced with public school teaching and school counselors who point the students in the right direction and encourage their schooling. The program, to Mr. Hogan, is moving in the right direction and the state and national statistics available suggests that education in prisons does work. Evidence shows that prisoners, who have some college or schooling after leaving prison, do not return. Not only are recidivism rates reduced, but these men usually find decent jobs and overall the public becomes safer because once released these guys do not commit crimes again. Mr. Hogan mentions that just by having these education classes, it goes a long way in changing the norms when it comes to education in prisons.
He talked about how years ago such education programs would definitely have been frowned upon by the public. People were incapable of understanding why men, who have committed crimes and are in jail to pay for these offenses, would be rewarded with the opportunity to get an education in prison. People especially turned against such schooling whenever taxpayer’s dollars entered into the picture. As Brian Hogan put it, education systems in prison are not the most politically correct thing and that is why the public often gets in the way of the promotion of these education programs in facilities. Speaking to Mr. Hogan increased our knowledge base about the specific programs available in Massachusetts for prisoners, and compared to some of our other experiences we counted ourselves lucky that this interview went so smoothly. This was not the case with some of the other contacts that our group tried to reach out to. After submitting multiple proposals to the Suffolk House of Corrections, in the end our request to visit the prison to speak to the inmates was denied. In another attempt to visit a prison, and if that failed, then to speak to the school principal, we contacted MCI Norfolk just as we had reached out to Souza-Baranowski.
Unfortunately, Ms. Diane Wiffin was not the most obliging and went back and forth with our group as if trying to avoid the questions and unwilling to give her opinion. When we informed her that the principal of SBCC had given us the description of his education program, she asked to review his answers, and her response was as follows: Hi, Chelsea! Veronica M. Madden, Deputy Commissioner of the Classification, Programs and Reentry Division, and I have reviewed your proposal and the questions and responses from Brian Hogan, Principal at Souza Baranowski Correctional Center. Mr. Hogan’s responses can be applied to MCI Norfolk as there are consistencies in the administration of our education programs throughout our facilities.
Deputy Commissioner Madden did want to comment on your question as to why people are refusing to give you information and how hard it is to obtain an interview. We don’t know who else you have contacted, but as I indicated to you when we spoke, we get an overwhelming number of student projects and we have limited resources to be responsive to those requests. As much as we would like to be available, we just don’t have the resources. In terms of Mr. Hogan’s response to that question, Deputy Commissioner Madden wonders if Mr. Hogan was referring to potential public reaction to inmates who participate in the Boston University Prison Program, which is donated by BU at no cost to taxpayers. BU also makes several scholarships available to DOC staff. We think the public is supportive of inmates’ receiving adult basic education, GED and vocational training. Attached is a copy of our Program Description Booklet. Education information is contained in that. Also as part of that booklet is a listing of programs and education/vocation training listed by facility.
In addition, on www. mass. gov/DOC there is research material covering recidivism rates. This is should be exactly what you need for your project… Diane Wiffin, Director of Public Affairs As her response shows, little time is available for the Deputy Commissioner to answer our questions and apparently the program of SBCC can be applied to MCI Norfolk. Our group was lucky that Mr. Hogan did not mind answering our questions but this reluctant behavior made us wonder why prisons were unwilling to talk to us about their facilities.
Before contacting Ms. Wiffin, we had already experienced certain setbacks with the process and we decided to ask Brian Hogan what his opinion was about why so much disinclination existed to speak to a group of Boston college students. He believed the difficulties we experienced were due to their fear of the public’s reaction to education in prisons. Many times these prison education programs are not advertised for people and either they do not understand or choose to not understand just what affects it could have on the community. Mr.
Hogan reflected, the taxpayer does not want to spend their money on something considered to be more of a reward, when they should be punished. In addition, he mentioned that this government funding for programs of college education receives much critique because parents have their own children that they are struggling to put through college. Consequently, seeing men in prisons able to take advantage of this makes them angry. Overall prisons are very skeptical of people’s intentions and fear that something, like education, that they believe to be good, could be misconstrued by the public.
This is especially true because as he puts it, what newspapers and the media portray is often negative when it comes to crimes and inmates in prisons. From these negative images, people make their own negative assumptions and believe that all prisoners are bad and should not receive any education. As a result, many do not care that this, overall, would be something better for the community and many take no importance that such education reduces the rate of recidivism. Mr. Hogan also states, that the “reality does not make for good reading,” and so little things like watching a recently released film to prisoners becomes outrageous for some constituents. These interesting opinions from Mr. Hogan reminded our group of everything that our class had touched upon regarding the image of crime in the media. Sara Beale, in the article we read for class “The News Media’s Influence on Criminal Justice Policy: How Market-Driven News Promotes Punitiveness,” (Beale 2006) claims that the media is manipulated to show a negative image of crime in the public and as a result instills a moral panic.
In framing, the media emphasizes a certain crime story, idea or feeling, often negative, resulting in the viewer’s fear in crime and offenders. The more fear they feel, the more the inclination to call for punitive policy and punish the offender. Also, television shows and news reports are used as entertainment for the public to improve ratings. This means that the entertainment sometimes does not accurately reflect the reality. (Beale 2006) This inaccurate reflection of reality encapsulates how people in the public view education for prisons and how it is portrayed to the masses.
For this reason, the prisons are scared their education programs might lose funding and resources, and therefore are reluctant to give away too much information to the public and media. In general, our group’s opinion of the SBCC’s is favorable and can be considered a good education model. Other information that we have gathered shows that the only programs some prisons actually have depend upon re-entry programs. These re-entry programs tend to lecture to the inmates on the limitations on their behavior, before they are released into the community.
Oftentimes no real engagement occurs with the prisoners, and if no education exists than these former inmates are more likely to commit crimes again. We believe that the college classes available to the inmates of SBCC are a significant asset to their program, and other research we conducted suggests that these classes are the most effective in reducing recidivism. Opponents do arise amongst the public concerning education in prison, but it would be more beneficial if they took into consideration that more education equals less crime and less recurring offenders.
Another conclusion we arrived at from our interview is the need for other prisons to implement these education programs and to make them more available to inmates. With only 200 prisoners out of 1300 allowed to participate in schooling, there are still many who never get the opportunity to learn. If these classes were available to more of the inmate population, then perhaps recidivism could be addressed more thoroughly through these efforts. We also believe that prisons such as MCI Norfolk should improve their programs if the reason for not giving us information is because the program they have is incompetent.
If the reason for not talking to us is due to fear of misrepresentation, we think this has to be addressed in a different manner, perhaps through informational pamphlets or some other form of media to get the message out to the public that education in prisons is a good thing. After many trials and tribulations, trying to break through the barriers of prison security that refuses to share the prison education information, we got creative. Pondville Correctional Center is located in the town of Norfolk, Massachusetts. The facility houses 204 inmates total.
The majority of the inmates are Level 3, which means that they are minimum-security inmates, while the others are Level 2, meaning that they are pre-release inmates. Our group decided to go to one of the work placements, which was at an auction house near the facility. About fifteen inmates were present at the auction house, and we had the opportunity to speak directly with all of them during the hour before the auction. This was an incredible and interesting experience, one that none of us had ever had before. It gave us much more insight into the prison system and the people inside of it.
As mentioned on the Mass. gov website, “The primary mission of Pondville Correctional Center is to protect the public’s safety by incarcerating inmates and to provide inmates the opportunity for responsible reintegration and positive behavioral change” (Public Safety, 2011). We believe that in order to fully reintegrate someone into society, inmates need to be educated and also have vocational training so that they can be a meaningful and productive addition to society once they are out of prison. When looking at the programs offered at all of the prisons, the options seem pretty extensive.
For example, Pondville requires all inmates to work unless they have a medical waiver and they also give prisoners vocational, educational, and self-help opportunities. The facility boasts that their education programs are “innovative”. They offer classes including Adult Basic Education, English as a Second language, GED tutoring, and a Life Skills Computer program that focuses on resume writing, job applications, job interviews, and personal finance. If we merely looked at the website, we would conclude that the opportunities for inmates are there, they just have to get involved.
After speaking with the inmates, we realized that this was not the case at all. The inside perspective from the inmates, that other prisons had so desperately tried to keep from us, made it clear that, although they have some classes, it is almost impossible to get into the programs. The reality is that there is open door access to programs at prisons, but it goes by earliest release date and overall there are not nearly enough programs. One man said that there are only about eighteen men per class, but 400 people want to be in that class.
Also, because it is by earliest release date, many people will be in prison for years until they get the chance to be in the program. How we can we, as a society, expect someone to become completely educated if we only let them into the programs 6 months before they are released? We, as a society, are appalled that people are let out of prison and then go back to their old habits, but this is because they do not know how else to act. They fall back into their own uneducated ways and wind back in prison, but if we do not give them an education, what else should we expect?
Another issue with the education offered to prisoners is that most of the teachers do not have high expectations for the inmates. As one inmate stated, if we show up, we pass. We do not have to do anything if we do not want to, but if we merely show up, she will pass us. From experience, our group agreed that it is extremely hard to try hard and have a strong work ethic when your teacher expects nothing from you. A lot of the teachers at the prisons, as Brian Hogan, principal at Souza Baranowski told us, have been laid off and, therefore, are relocating to prisons.
This means that they are real and qualified teachers, but then why are they not expecting the same from the inmates as they did from their previous students? The teachers need to take responsibility for the success of the inmates. They need to have expectations for the prisoners and only pass them if they deserve to pass. Having education classes is a start, but they need to have education classes in which the prisoners actually learn things, and that is not going to happen if they are passed just for showing up.
Denying prisoners feeds into a theory that we discussed this semester while reading The Rich Get Richer and the Poor Get Prison. (Reiman, & Leighton, 2010). The Pyrrhic defeat theory states “the American criminal justice system – the entire process from law-making to law-enforcing – has failed to eliminate the rates of crime that characterize our society and threaten our citizens” (Reiman, & Leighton, 2010). We discussed this theory as a group and concluded that the criminal justice system fails to liminate the rates of crime because we are sending inmates back into society the same way (or even worse) than they were when they entered the system. Instead of using the years that they are in the system to educate them and teach them better ways, we are letting them sit around watching Jerry Springer, joining gangs, or fighting each other. By denying prisoners a proper education and then just expecting them to change and not come back to prison is absurd. The ignorance of people believing that prisoners are not entitled to an education will just continue to perpetuate the crime cycle.
For example, if an offender has served his time and has to face the world again with a lack of academic knowledge on top of an already perceived low morale as they will be judged for being in prison in the first place, it will be a lot easier for them to stray again and end up back in the system. However, with the prospect of being educated and having added knowledge, this will hopefully encourage and give inmates the confidence and ability to make something of their lives and also be provided with the idea that they can do other things in life than turn to crime.
We need to be smart on crime. We need to educate people so that they have the ability to change once they are released. Once a prisoner gets his GED, so many more doors open up for them and more opportunities arise. Because they already have a strike against them for being in prison, inmates need credentials to get their foot into the door, and an education will help them with this. While visiting the auction house, we talked directly with a man named Tom Lyons. Tom has spent the last twenty years in prison for killing a man. When he entered the system, he was illiterate.
After spending some time with Tom, we learned that a mixture of religion and education changed his life. His release date was coming up on April 15th, and he could now read and write due to the education that he received in prison. He studied poetry while in the system and his favorite author is Emily Dickinson. Tom says that having an education made him realize that he wanted to help others, and he wants to go around speaking to groups about his experiences, etc. He also said that without an education, he never would have been able to have the confidence to want to make something of his life once he gets out.
While Tom was lucky enough to get an education, he also has missed out on a lot. Over the past twenty years, so much has changed in our society. Cell phones, Internet, and other technological advances have transformed us. However, Tom has never experienced most of these things. He was getting out in 15 days and they were just teaching him how to use a computer. He said that there were always programs that were interesting to him, but he could not get into them until he was really close to getting out.
As Tom said, “if you’re preparing someone to change their entire life, you need to start right as we get in. Not one year before we are getting out. I was lucky and got into an education program earlier, but millions of people are not. ” Tom may have learned to read and write, but he is still so far behind in terms of understanding technology, something crucial to succeeding in today’s world. From speaking with Tom, we realized that there is so much that needs to be addressed within the education department within prisons.
After speaking with Tom and the other prisoners, we realized that there is an open door access to programs, but this does not mean much because a lot of people cannot get into the programs because eligibility goes by earliest release date. The prisoners gave us some of their main wishes for the education system. These included for people to have higher expectations for them, for there to be more programs and more GED programs, and to have teachers who truly care about their success instead of just showing up to get a pay check.
These wishes are all things that we think many would agree with. They are not asking for things that are absurd. They are just asking to be given the chance to get an education, and if we, as a society, want them to stop ending up back in prison, that is exactly what we need to give them; a good education and skills to use outside of prison. Although there are solid arguments why it is unfair for prisoners to be getting these perks while being in prison, one must remember the structural deficits that currently exist in our society.
In an ideal world, education in the prison systems would not be a necessity or a topic of discussion. Within an idealistic system, there would be adequate educational programs that created motivation and encouragement in all youth to work hard and stay on the right path. This correct path would lead students to the ample jobs awaiting them. There would be no need to resort to criminal activity in order to support oneself or one’s family. Anyone who did stray from these available opportunities would have no excuse for their irresponsible behaviors, leaving prison as their option of punishment.
However, and this is a big however, because the current structural system is not giving everyone equal opportunities to climb the rungs of the social ladder. Understandable then, many individuals feel trapped into a life of crime and violence as a means to escape the grueling effects of an unfair system. This is not an excuse, nor is it justification for the crimes that many people are arrested and imprisoned for. Regardless of the unfair system, acts of violence and criminality should neither be supported nor accepted. Because society does not mirror the ideal that many wish for, there will inevitable be acts that are deemed unlawful.
With an unequal system and over two million inmates the question arises, whether as a nation our desire is to rehabilitate these prisoners or just punish them and house them in prison cells for the rest of their lives. There are many sides to every story, and in this case there are those who support educational programs within prisons and there are those who are opposed to it. Some argue against education for those on death row, while others say that no one in prison should be given the opportunity of an education. Knowledge is power, but why should prisoners be given this power?
The money that is being spent on prisons should be going to the education of people who are not criminals. Others argue that there is so much money being spent on housing and feeding prisoners already. Why do these prisoners deserve an education when so many children are suffering through poorly funded public school systems? The most popular reason is that people believe their tax dollars are being spent on educating prisoners while many Americans struggle to send their children to college or even good high schools. Also, educating prisoners is seen as a distant reward that benefits them individually rather than benefitting society
Unfortunately America’s individualistic nature creates a shortcoming for their nation. They do not see the benefits of educating prisoners. An educated nation is a better nation. The stance that will be taken is to rehabilitate prisoners and allow them to become working members of society upon their release. Under this perspective, the education system within a prison would not only be necessary but would serve as a vital program to helping prisoners have the slightest chance at emerging into society as skillful and productive members.
If inmates receive an education before they are released from prison, if they have help through this system to gain a job and work to support themselves, one can only hope that it would reduce the level of crime and reduce the number of prisoners re-entering prisons. This hope is the reality. Although Studies have clearly shown that “participants in prison education, vocation and work programs have recidivism rates 20-60 percent lower than those of non-participants” (Granoff, J 2009) many Americans still disagree with the education of prisoners.
Despite these negative arguments against educating prisoners, there exist an abundant number of advantages to these programs. After discussing with the Principal and director of the prisons and discussing with the inmates themselves, it is clear that the education system is under a lot of scrutiny by the public. The principle of the Souza-Baranowski maximum-security prison said, “People don’t understand it. People are struggling to send their kids to college. People are abiding by the laws and doing the right things don’t see the benefit of educating those who have broken law”.
Without information on programs and how they work to benefit society, the general population will remain oblivious to the constructive aspects of these programs. The media affects the way we view society and the programs within it. Media programs stress certain points that highlight what people want to hear, what lobbyists want said and what society deems important at the time. In order for people to realize the extent of the positive impacts of the programs available, we need to hear more success stories like that of Joan.
Joan said, “I did not realize at the time that I had taken the first step on a journey of lifelong learning. Nor that the process would allow me to accumulate “human capital” (qualifications skills and abilities), “identity capital” (self-worth) and “social capital” (a supportive network of friends and colleagues). ” (Erwin, J) She is just one example of the many positively impacted individuals who were transformed from caterpillars to butterflies with a little encouragement and motivation.
As said before, we believe that many of the existing programs in the prison systems aim at positively influencing the prisoners. We understand the complexity of the issues at hand and the controversy that surrounds this discussion. Although these troubles exist, we came up with what our model program would consist of, and the recommendations that we have concerning the programs that are currently being utilized. Our model program is based on a rehabilitative method. We would want to prisoners to accumulate “human capital” “identity capital” and “social capital” as Joan described.
The programs would be mandatory to ensure that all prisoners were getting involved. There would also be incentives to take part in the programs. Of course the prisoners should want to take advantage of these programs without being pushed to do so, however, we recognize that getting the ball rolling will show these prisoners what they are capable of. For many inmates, no one has ever pushed them to capitalize on their true potentials, which leaves them yearning for self-fulfillment in all the wrong arenas.
Our hope is that once they see their capabilities, this will push them to continue to work hard and motivate them to move past their criminal behaviors once they are released from prison. It is very important for there to be vocational classes that give the inmates specific skills and talents that will ensure them some job opportunities when they are released from prison. On a higher level, GED classes and college programs need to become common in all prisons instead of being the exception to only a few.
We also believe that the number of programs being offered needs to be drastically increased. As the inmate said, there are 400 hundred people who want to be in certain programs but only 18 can be. This disparity is disheartening, as the desire to change exists; however the opportunity to do it is lacking. As prison populations grow into the millions, society must decide how “tough on crime” they are going to continue to be. The individual states have the power to decide the individual educational systems within their prisons.
Education, as a result of negativity towards all prisons, has not only become less of a priority but is seen as prisoners being given a free ride. The problem however, is that the current system that offers harsh punishment and little rehabilitation is not working. Harsh punishment does not however mean deliberate cruelty. Prisons should not be a place that purposely creates horrible conditions for inmates. Just having your freedom taken away from you is probably one of the worst things that can happen to an individual. Certainly, no one has the right to injure another person or to take his or er life however, if society does not work at rehabilitating these individuals, then the length of sentences and punitive measures will not only need to be increased but turned up by many notches. The cutting of education budgets within prisons increases the likelihood that upon release these prisoners will only return to prison. People in the general population are already reluctant to hire someone with a criminal record so adding a lack of education will make it virtually impossible for released prisoners to do anything but go back to their old lifestyles of crime.
This will only create a never-ending cycle that will inevitably become hurtful to society as a whole. Of course the ideal education system outside of prison is what we dream of, but until then we support the efforts to protect society by educating those who once harmed it.
Erwin, James. “In Prison, Education Is Your Best Route to a Better Life | Erwin James | Society | Guardian. co. uk. ” Latest News, Comment and Reviews from the Guardian | Guardian. co. uk. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www. guardian. co. uk/society/joepublic/2009/sep/17/erwin-james-education-prisoners-rehabilitation>.
Granoff, Gillian. “Education Update – Prison College Programs Unlock the Keys to Human Potential. ” EDUCATION UPDATE – APRIL 2011 – Education News. 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2011. <http://www. educationupdate. com/archives/2005/May/html/FEAT-BehindBars. html>. Public safety and security, Commonwealth of Massachusetts. (2011). Pondville correctional facility Government Printing Office.