Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Reading your way to freedom

Here's a fascinating idea from Brazil: inmates in federal penitentiaries will have their sentences reduced by four days for every book they read.

There are provisos, of course. The Guardian article tells us:

Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read each book and write an essay that must "make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing", said the notice published on Monday in the official gazette.
This is such a brave and enlightened thing to attempt. The article quotes a Brazilian lawyer:
"A person can leave prison more enlightened and with a enlarged vision of the world," said São Paulo lawyer Andre Kehdi, who heads a book donation project for prisons.

"Without doubt they will leave a better person," he said.

What chance this could happen in the UK or the US? In Britain, at the moment, there would be no chance: we are in a slough of anti-intellectualism at present, with almost a societal presumption against learning, while prison is traditionally seen in this country as a place of punishment, not somewhere where an individual can be rehabilitated. Models such as this would no doubt be described by the Daily Mail et al as liberal-lefty lunacy which does nothing except free criminals to come and rob us. I really hope this works.

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