Re: Some prison statistics

Chuck Kuecker (
Wed, 16 Jun 1999 19:25:41 -0500

At 05:19 PM 6/16/99 +0100, Charlie Stross wrote:

>The hypothesis they advanced was that illiterate
>people in this textually-oriented society are at a major disadvantage when
>it comes to doing just about anyything -- from earning a living to making
>use of welfare state benefits. Teaching inmates to read and do simple
>sums equipped them to survive on the outside without breaking the law.

So simple - it's amazing our lawmakers here in the US can't see the obvious. Unfortunately, our solons will latch on to the one case of a 'literate' ex-con committing another crime as proof that the whole program is flawed.

>It seems to me that if this can be substantiated, it would be a very
>cheap tool for reducing the long-term crime rate (by enabling ex-
>prisoners to re-integrate with society more easily).
>I'm a bit more pessimistic, however, about the idea of teaching useful
>vocational skills in a prison environment; we're moving out of the
>industrial mass-production era, and unskilled or semi-skilled labour
>just isn't in that much demand. Teaching a con how to work a drill press
>or lathe isn't really going to help them get a job as a waiter or a
>taxi driver ...

There is still demand for manual skills such as construction workers - if we could get the unions to allow it...

Perhaps courses in courtesy and how to live in a polite society would be of use. Teaching the inmates how to speak clear standard English would also help them gain entrance to many low level jobs.

I have a vision of the prisons becoming such effective training facilities that released criminals would be in higher demand than unskilled non-ex-cons, promoting a wave of petty 'crime' for the express purpose of gaining an education..