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Prison Education Essay

2945 words - 12 pages

A Positive Perspective on Prison Education


Prison Education
Many people would agree that continuing an education is key to living in society. Therefore, education is very vital for every individual to maintain, regardless of how or where they obtain it. Having an education can provide people with some many opportunities to improve their lives. Even though people believe that education is important, many people disagree with education being taught in prison. Many of the inmates are high school dropouts or have an eighth grade education or less; ...view middle of the document...

Decades ago prison education was seen as merely keeping the prisoners separated from one another because they thought by keeping the prisoners together would contaminate one another and they would never be able to learn their lesson. Prison education was first implemented in 1798 and was known as “the most beneficial employment” (Williford 19). By the 1820s the Pennsylvania and Auburn systems were developed, and these systems were to ensure that nothing went wrong (Williford 20). The Pennsylvania System, which was also known as the separate and silent system, kept every prisoner separate from one another and were not allowed to speak to one each other. Since the inmates were kept separated, they were given nightly sessions with the chaplain, the first prison teacher, to go over readings from the bible, along with elementary and moral education. With the Pennsylvania System, they believed keeping the prisoners separate would give them time to rethink their crimes, and eventually decide they would never commit another crime because they did not want to go through that punishment again (Williford 20). Many of the inmates could not read, so the Pennsylvania System felt it was necessary to educate the prisoners. Without knowing how to read or understand anything, inmates would not be able to reflect on their life of crime. Although today prison does not keep inmates separate on a daily basis, some inmates do experience the separate and silent treatment today, it is known as solitary confinement. Plus, just like today the prisons back then became overcrowded so the Pennsylvania system had to adjust to the number of prisoners they had and begin housing inmates together.
At the same time, the Auburn system, which was known as the congregate and silent system started to develop, and has stated that the Pennsylvania System was wrong because prisoners should have some contact with other humans and seen as inhumane (Williford 20). This is also due to the fact that since people had no contact with anyone else it seemed to make them develop mental issues from solitary confinement and boredom. The Auburn system allowed inmates to eat and work together but they were still forbidden to talk to one another. With this system they felt educating inmates would just take away time and the prisoners did not need to be taught. According to Stephen Allen, one of the founders of the Auburn system stated,
educational efforts in prison were unwise because they took time away from the
inmate’s labor, that criminals had not the same claim upon our commiseration that
the honest and unfortunate part of our species have . . . the system of attention,
kindness, and forbearance, has failed, and will fail . . . (Williford 20).
As one can see the thought of education in prison has been around for quite a while but many of the attempts have failed because of the system being used. However, with the system that is now being offered, inmates have a better chance of...

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