File this one under F, for “Fucking great idea!” According to the ABC News website, Brazil has started a new program with its prison inmates, and it really is brilliant. It’s the kind of progressive thinking that we really need more of. Inmates in four prisons holding some of Brazil’s most notorious criminals will be able to read up to twelve works of literature, philosophy, science or classics per year and, if they write a book report on what they’ve read, they’ll get a four day sentence reduction for each read. That’s a potential 48 days off their sentence each year.
Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read a book and write an essay, and that essay must “make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing”. It’s pretty obvious that for a lot of poor crimimals, from socially disadvantaged backgrounds, this will prove quite a challenge. After all, the poor and socially disadvantaged, and therefore uneducated, are more likely to end up in the penal system, so this isn’t something that is likely to come easily to most of them. But it gives them not only the opportunity, but also the incentive, to improve their reading and writing skills, better themselves and emerge from prison as an actually improved person. I think they should get more time off than four days per book. A total of a little over a month and half per year might not seem like much if you’re in for a long stretch. But the potential to reduce your sentence by, say, three months a year would be extremely appealing.
Of course, there are all kinds of possible problems and no guarantees of success. Some of the most educated people in the world are nasty bastards with no regard for their fellow human. Mind you, most of those end up in politics rather than prison. (Try the veal.)
But this is a fantastic idea and I really hope it works. I think it will.
A special panel will decide which inmates are eligible to participate in the program dubbed Redemption Through Reading. And that’s a great name for a great concept.
Well done, Brazil. Have a cookie.