Brazil made headlines yesterday for introducing a new program to reduce prison sentences, aptly titled “Redemption through Reading”. According to this article from the Huffington Post, inmates in Brazil’s federal prisons can now minimize their sentences by up to 48 days per year by reading one book every four weeks, then writing an essay on it.
While there’s no shortage of literacy programs in prisons all over the world, I thought this was the first case where it actually had a concrete impact on a person’s punishment, but I was wrong. After a little searching online, I found Changing Lives Through Literature, a rehabilitation course introduced in the early 90’s in Massachusetts as an alternative to prison. Created for repeat offenders of serious crimes, this initiative forms reading groups where offenders discuss the classics. It has proved to significantly reduce recidivism rates and violent behavior among participants.
Avid readers know that literature has the ability to change lives, but these programs bring this concept to fruition. By reading about characters and situations they can relate to, convicts get the chance to look at their own lives, and the way they affect others, through a different lens. They also develop skills to analyze, articulate, and communicate more effectively, equipping them with the ability to make more positive contributions to society.
Does anyone here have experience working in this capacity in the penal system?