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April 22, 2006

Reading is fundamental ... for criminals

Mm831schoolhouserockconjunctionjunctionpA local Ohio public radio reporter recently made me aware of a rural county's interesting alternative sentencing program — one that sounds a bit like an initiative that might be suggested by the conductor of Conjunction Junction if he became a judge.  The program is discussed in an audio segment available here — which is entitled, "Sentenced to Read: Book Club is Court's Unique Approach."

In a nutshell, some judges in Wayne County, Ohio have sentenced certain persons convicted of non-violent offenses to participate in a weekly book club as part of a court-ordered program of community service.   According to the report on the program, the recidivism rate for persons participating in the book club is virtually zero.

Sing it with me Schoolhouse Rock fans:

Conjunction Junction, what's your function?
Hooking up offenders with texts and reading.
Conjunction Junction, how's that function?
I got three favorite books
That get most of my job done.

April 22, 2006 at 01:35 AM | Permalink


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Interesting idea. Of course, if it's from a rural county, a recidivism rate of near-zero isn't that significant, but it would probably work for some very minor offenders.

Posted by: Clarence | Apr 22, 2006 2:11:31 AM

In the two articles, “Reading is fundamental … for criminals” and “An interesting pair of Newsweek treatment articles”, there is my formula for rehabilitation in prison. Take for example, if you want to teach fire prevention, you would first have the class understand the purpose and uses of fire. It is the education that changes people, educate someone and his influence will be passed along to those within his immediate family as well as beyond.
Crime prevention should begin with education. What is the origin and nature of laws?
How many criminals or for that matter non-criminals understand the origin and nature of law. Society operated for thousands of years before the first writing was carved in stone, and the first written word was probably not law. No one needed to be told that murder, rape and robbery or stealing violated society’s law. But when laws became society’s mainstay and communities became towns and towns counties and then states and countries, laws became more and more important, the equal protection of the laws required national uniformity.
Prisons are for doing time, and time can be utilized productively or wasted. Prisoners find a way to do time or the time does them in. Some prisoners read a lot and some a little, but they all at some time pick up something to read. I read thousands of books in 15 years and most of them law books, I came away with a new perspective and an education. The more I read, the more I had to read to understand what I had read, it was an endless circle of researching and writing; then 15 years had gone by and I was going home.
Prisoners come from all over and have different backgrounds, but they all become the same in prison, same clothes, same cell, same bed and same food. You want to see them think differently, then have them read and while reading time is in abundance, have them all read about the laws and the history of the laws, I think everyone would be surprised at the result.
Some of you may think that prisoners will learn loopholes by studying the law, but if you know the law then you know loopholes have mostly closed over the more than two centuries of legal wranglings in U.S. courts. If you think there are still abundant loop holes, then you need to read the law.
Prisoners who have committed crimes, especially drug crimes, not as a per se criminal act, for drug crimes are malum prohibitum, illegal because they are prohibited by written regulation rather than malum in se, prohibited by society even before writing; for the most part don’t consider what they did a crime. This is wrong thinking and to rehabilitate a person you must first change the way they think.
Wardens for the most part do not want prisoners educated in the law, there is only one single paralegal program in the federal prison system and that is in Seagoville, Texas, where Warden Joslin, the education department and the Department of Labor have allowed prisoners to create a 6,00 hour program, the success of the program may only be measured by the recidivism rates from the graduates, which I portend to be zero.

Posted by: Barry Ward | Apr 22, 2006 1:01:30 PM

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