Brazilian prisoners can reduce their sentences by reading
Is reading redemptive?
The Brazilian government thinks so.
Prisoners can reduce their sentences for four days per book read in a year, up to twelve books. So, a convict can spend up to 48 days fewer days per year in jail…by reading.
On the surface, that absolutely makes sense to me.
You can’t understand a book unless you understand the person writing it. I can’t think of any other human experience that as deeply gets you inside the head of someone else as reading a book .
I think that, generally, the more you can see things from someone else’s point of view, the less likely you are to take advantage of or cause harm to another person.
That’s what reading does.
Of course, there have been very well-read people who have done horrible things to others, but I think that’s the minority.
Most of the regulars on the Kindle forum seem to be helpful and empathetic, and I always think that having read a lot is probably part of that.
I believe this is a good program, and I endorse it.
However, I do have a few concerns.
One is the question of which books count. The books will be selected (or at least approved) by the government. That makes some sense. Books have to be of an appropriate length. There are books, such as The Anarchist Cookbook (which tells people how to make bombs and such), that aren’t likely to be on the list.
However, what about something like In Cold Blood? Helter Skelter? Of Mice and Men?
For Brazilian authors, what about
This classic 19th Century author is downbeat and challenges the status quo. Would a committee putting together a list of books that are “good for prisoners” approve these works?
My feeling is “read anything”…but that won’t be the way an official program will go.
My other concern is that this will benefit the urban, mainstream population more than it will the rural poor.
Brazil’s illiteracy rate was over ten percent in this
I’ve seen indicators that is more than twice that in rural parts of the country.
In the Redemption through Reading program, prisoners must not only read the books, but write about them:
“Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read each book and write an essay which 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.”
That may be statistically more difficult for people from disadvantaged areas. It could end up that poorly educated convicts spend more than ten percent more time in jail than well educated convicts.
Even so, I approve of the program. You can’t make something work perfectly. It doesn’t make illiterate prisoners stay in longer than they would have: it makes readers, who are presuming broadening their horizons and reducing their societal risk (that’s just my opinion), spend less time.
What do you think?
Is reading redemptive? Is rewarding reading in prison so unfair that a program like that should not be implemented? Would you want to see this in the USA (or in your country, if you aren’t in the USA or Brazil)? Does reading make you a more empathetic person…and therefore less likely to commit crimes?
Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.