While some countries are discussing whether imprisonment is any good at all to rehabilitate prisoners, Brazil adopted a very interesting approach that allows inmates to shorten their prison term by 4 days a year for each book they read (with a maximum of 48 days a year, corresponding to 12 books).
They call this program ‘Redemption through Reading’, and the idea is to ‘change’ the prisoners’ mentalities and broaden their cultural horizon so that, upon serving their term, they leave as better persons. To make it meaningful, they must deliver a proper essay for each book they read, and they get to develop their writing skills as well.
It all sounds good, but there is always a dark side. First, the motive. In the case of Brazil, it was to ‘ease prison overcrowding’! So, they did the seemingly right thing for the wrong reason. Still, it is a smart and humane way of getting around the problem. But that is not the only problem, because eventually many other questions arise:
Who chooses the books they read? On what basis?
What about those who are illiterate or blind? Why can’t someone read and write for them? Or will they be punished twice?
What happens when the prisons are no more ‘overcrowded’?
Why only reading? What about listening to and playing music? What about photography, painting, writing poetry?
The questions are many, but the initiative is definitely interesting. Culture has the power to change lives, and prisons are a good place to put that into use…that is, if you believe that prisons are any good to start with.