ERIC Number: EJ711663
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Is It a Crime to Be Illiterate? Changing Lives through Literature: Offenders Program Report
Change, v37 n2 p28 Mar-Apr 2005
Early in 2004 the New England Board of Higher Education bestowed its annual award for excellence on Changing Lives Through Literature. A 1991 experiment that has spread by word of mouth through a dozen courts in Massachusetts, Changing Lives puts the classroom study of literature at the core of an alternative-sentencing program for criminal offenders on probation. It has done so with little fanfare and a bare minimum of funding--the usual story of alternative-sentencing experiments in most countries. Any such program must expect to meet even greater resistance in the United States, where public attitudes toward crime have been dominated for a generation by punitive rather than rehabilitative ideals. Recognition and support of Changing Lives coming from respected institutions may be an indication of shifting attitudes toward our country's controversial criminal justice system. Like most alternative-sentencing experiments, the appeal of the program is strongest for those who know the revolving door of the criminal justice system most intimately--judges, probation officers, and most of all, offenders themselves. For these students, the aim is not merely to get off probation, but to stay off. So can such programs keep potential repeat offenders out of the courts and jails? Do they, or should they, lead to further education? Would public money now spent on crime prevention and control be better spent on literacy programs? As national statistics predict, some probationers have gone back to jail, but the evidence from Changing Lives suggests that the usual recidivism rates may be halved for graduates. Some have even gone on to college and earned degrees.
Descriptors: Criminals, Adult Education, Recidivism, Adult Literacy, Correctional Education, Adult Reading Programs, African Americans, Reading Instruction, Correctional Rehabilitation
Heldref Publications, Helen Dwight Reid Educational Foundation, 1319 Eighteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036-1802. Web site: http://www.heldref.org.
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States