Criminal justice presupposes punishments for committing offenses, which include isolation of recidivists from society. However, the more time people spend in places with minimal contact with the outside world and access to resources, the less they will be able to adapt back to normal lawful life. Many ex-prisoners struggle with finding employment and building social relationships. The result of this dynamic is the perpetuation of violent behavior and a criminal mindset.
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As a result, the entire purpose of using imprisonment as punishment is rendered meaningless. Incarceration further alienates inmates from lawful life and pushes them into recidivism rather than offers them a chance of criminal rehabilitation. Instead, imprisonment should teach the offenders proper conduct in order for them to reintegrate into society as lawful citizens. One of the opportunities to break this cycle is introducing education in prisons. The subsequent research question is: how can education in prisons help inmates rehabilitate and return to a lawful life?
There are several factors necessitating prisoner education. First, the flow of life in prisons is extremely repetitive and mentally damaging. Confined to a limited environment, people experience severe stress and anxiety. Moreover, there is a significant increase in the degree of “prisoner unrest in response to overcrowding, smoking bans and other frustrations” (Farley & Pike, 2016, p. 66). These restrictions are usually met with violence from and among the inmates. Boredom demands the release of energy, which is directed at fighting the regulations. However, it might be possible to reduce the risk of prison uprisings by filling their days with constructive activities, such as education.
Second, education itself has numerous benefits for both individuals and society. Even if the subjects, which are taught, are not helpful at finding a job, they can still help in life. However, Torrijo and De Maeyer (2019) point to the evidence that “education contributes significantly to inmates’ social reintegration” (p. 671). Not only do prisoners have the ability to hone their communication skills, but they are also “more likely to (re-)enter the labour market after release than inmates who did not engage in learning” (p. 671). Therefore, it can be concluded that implementing educational programs in prisons will bring positive results in any way.
Third, there are already precedents of the implementation of education in prisons. For example, Szifris et al. (2018) write that “every prison in England and Wales, and most prisons in Western countries, have a dedicated prison education department” (p. 41). There, inmates learn basic life skills, such as literacy and numeracy. Depending on the situation in the job market, certain applied skills are also accentuated. In addition, some prisons focus on a holistic approach, directing the education at the overall personal development of prisoners. Probably, the most important skill that any person should acquire is the ability to distinguish morality from dishonest actions, which is notoriously lacking in modern prison rehabilitation.
Finally, it could be argued that denying prisoners education is a violation of their rights. Torriji and Maeyer (2019) argue that “in terms of fostering active citizenship, and the right to education should indeed be recognized as a right for all human beings regardless of their social or legal circumstances” (p. 671). The purpose of imprisonment is not only punishment but also the cultivation of societal values. Therefore, it makes sense to put efforts into the education of inmates as affirmation of the principle of equal access to education.
Altogether, it should be evident that education is an essential part of prisoners’ rehabilitation, which is often ignored. It can help the inmates spend their time in facilities constructively for themselves and for society. Education provides a way for convicts to return to lawful life and properly reintegrate into the civil setting. The possibility that many former prisoners will be forced to re-offend justifies the importance of examining the topic of education in prisons.
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Farley, H., & Pike, A. (2016). Engaging prisoners in education: Reducing risk and recidivism. Advancing Corrections: Journal of the International Corrections and Prisons Association, 1, 65-73.
Torrijo, H. R., & De Maeyer, M. (2019). Education in prison: A basic right and an essential tool. International Review of Education, 65, 671–685. Web.
Szifris, K., Fox, C., & Bradbury, A. (2018). A realist model of prison education, growth, and desistance: A new theory. Journal of Prison Education and Reentry, 5(1), 41-62. Web.