Essay – Prisoners educate themselves with books
In the information age of today, we can literally feel the pulse of world events as they happen. Fifty years ago one could hardly conceive the advances in technology and communications we enjoy today. With cell phones, computers, the internet and satellite communications, we have instant access to the globe and beyond. Business, entertainment, shopping and education are at our fingertips anytime, anywhere, any place.
Now, imagine a world without all these advances and niceties. There is such a place that exists here in America. It is in our prisons and jails. Being in prison separates you from the rest of the world. Certainly that is what the system is there for. It punishes those who break the law and separates them from and protects society from them until they are deemed suitable to return.
Prison is a bare-bones world of isolation. Other than occasional calls home, letters and family visits, the prisoner is totally separated from the world outside the walls. There is little to distinguish one day from the next. World events become foreign and remote because the prisoner is so disconnected that prison itself becomes their world, their universe. There is little or no rehabilitation or education available to a prisoner. There are no incentives for bettering yourself. The prisoner is warehoused in a mind numbing world of sensory deprivation until his/her sentence is up, then cast back into society, often ill prepared.
Typically, prisoners spend their time in one of three ways. They spend their days watching television, which often consists of endless sporting events or sci-fi movies. Or they do absolutely nothing but ‘hang out’ wasting their time. However, there is a large segment of prisoners who take it on their own to improve and educate themselves. Doing this is largely through books. Be it fiction, non-fiction, self-help, technical, educational and so forth. Many prisoners read to occupy their minds, learn and improve themselves for their return to society. Books are also a means of escape from the boredom and deprivation of daily life behind bards. One can live, for a moment, vicariously through the characters portrayed in the stories.
Having practice psychology and taught college for over twenty years, it is amazing how many dictionaries I see in prison. I am around prisoners who have little or no education to those with advanced degrees. They all have or borrow dictionaries frequently. The under-educated use them to learn, the educated use them to try to refresh and renew the spelling and meaning of words that they once knew and are slowly eroding from their memory due to the severe lack of mental stimulation and isolation.From my heart, I thank you Prison Book Program.