I am currently reading The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom by Michael Shermer.
While the book is of course about a much broader topic, a part I recently read relates to the kind of prison reform I have often wrote about for this blog. Shermer writes:
Working through one of the few college degree-granting programs in the Department of Corrections of New York State, the psychologists interviewed cite statistics showing that the best predictor of success after prison is a college degree. As the psychologist Susan Weiner, who works with the program, noted, “These men and women will come back to the community. How do you want them to come back? This isn’t just a gift for them. It’s a gift for society. It’s the way that we make society a better place.” A prisoner named Denis Martinez, for example, explained what getting an education and learning to read deeply into subjects gave him in terms of perspective: “It’s given me a new set of glasses. Before I wasn’t able to see the things I see now. I was a nineteen-year old knucklehead going around and thinking I knew it all. THe more I learned the more I could sense how wrong I was and how many things I didn’t know.” Inspired by his reading of Rene Descartes, Martinez reflected, “There are two ways to be in prison–physically and/or mentally. BEing in prison mentally is to live in ignorance, closed-mindedness, and pessimism. You can confine me for as long as you want, but my wind will always be free.” The title of a painting this prisoner made is revealing: Cogito Ergo Sum Liber–I Think Therefore I Am Free.
I fully support offering those incarcerated for whatever reason the chance to get a quality education and college degree while incarcerated. By preventing recidivism, it would likely save money rather than cost money for taxpayers.
Unfortunately, for the reasons explored in my previous post Recidivism and the Prison Industry, those in charge of making the decision actually benefit from choosing the more expensive option even though it leads to more violent crime.
What do you think?