In the US, prisons are overcrowded--more than our fair share. (According on a 2008 NYT article, "The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But it has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners." So, it's intriguing to see the solutions countries are using to combat their overcrowding issues...
Take a look at the enticement that Brazil came up with! 1 book = -4 days (incarceration).
The inmates can read "12 works of literature, philosophy, science or classics to trim a maximum 48 days off their sentence each year, the government announced," according to Reuters. It's part of a program: "Redemption through Reading"... As part of the requirement for a shortened sentence, the prisoner must also write an error-free, correctly-formatted essay about the book.
Can you imagine a project like that here in the US?
Well, here's is something... As part of Changing Lives Through Literature, "Repeat offenders of serious crimes such as armed robbery, assault or drug dealing are made to attend a reading group where they discuss literary classics such as To Kill a Mockingbird, The Bell Jar and Of Mice and Men" (according to The Guardian, 2010). The program appears to have given some of the "students" a new outlook on life (and, of course, it helps in some small way to solve the problem of overcrowding and repeat offenders).
But, I hope reading does much more!
I'm reminded of what Frazier Glenn Miller wrote: "I spent much of my prison time reading. I must have read over 200 large books, mostly fictional stories about the American pioneers, the Vikings, Mafia, etc. As long as I was engrossed in a book, I was not in prison. Reading was my escape."
So, what do you think? Do you think the inmates would become "better" human beings if they received real incentives to read the greatest works in world literature (and discuss or write about them)?
Read, read away--escape...