With the prison industry under lots of scrutiny and pressure, from privatization, to overcrowding, to just how much there actually are ways to help “reform” a person or provide justice, there are many who look for different forms of restorative justice and how we can approach it. Society, as the taxpayer, looks towards less costly approaches as prison costs skyrocket, while society, as the whole community, looks towards trying to rehabilitate in such a way that is not as traumatizing as prison.
Some ways include decreasing mandatory minimum sentences, others take on the laws themselves, but in what has seemed to be a (surprising) change of pace, in multiple countries around the globe, reading has decreased prison time, been added in addition to a sentence or in some cases replaced jail time altogether. The effects of reading have been shown to provide empathy, and provide a learning and understanding aspect of the world. In some cases, such as this Italian court ruling, a defendant had to actually buy the victim books such as Virginia Woolf, Anne Frank and Emily Dickinson to learn about “female dignity.”
In most cases, it seems as if a judge, or prosecutor, recognizes the learning potential harnessed in books, that will not only hopefully teach the reader, but engage with the inmate (or defendant) to become a “new” person, with newer points of view.
There have long been groups that have connected books to prisoners, such as Books Through Bars, Books to Prisoners, and Book ‘Em, as well as literary programs that provide book clubs and writing sessions for inmates. In even better news, alternative sentencing through organizations such as Changing Lives Through Literature have been gaining ground, especially with studies conducted that show a lower recidivism rate when such sentencing has been utilized.
With this said, there is still a hesitancy to have this notion become widespread, and though gaining ground, will still have a little while before it will substitute larger sentences, but in the meanwhile when it is added on, and used in tandem with other methods, it will show its strongly effective.
What do you think about this model of sentencing?
YouTube Channel: Maria Brophy
Featured image via Wikimedia