Depriving the Incarcerated of Education

Depriving the Incarcerated of Education

Your issue on education behind bars (see Black Issues, Feb. 24) was essential to public knowledge. Most times, those of us incarcerated are stereotyped and judged by the public. I am not trying to excuse the actions that put me in prison, but as it happened, I have furthered my education while incarcerated. I have graduated from high school, received my associate’s degree (on the Dean’s list) and am in vocational training in auto-computer-assisted drafting.

I have been locked up for 17 straight years, and improving my education has greatly changed me. The opportunity I received has matured me and has instilled a self-confidence that I can succeed even after being in prison for so long. To know that some in the public would like to deprive higher education to prisoners is disturbing. Why? Because as your stats point out, up to 600,000 people are released from some form of incarceration every year. Would you want an uneducated underachiever with a low sense of self-worth released to your community? I have personally seen guys come through prison with little to no education who attempted to just get their G.E.D.s. Others are interested in college, knowing how much it will benefit them in regaining social acceptance.

The high rise in prison populations coincides with low job rates, low pay and low high-school graduation rates. With President Bush cutting programs such as Upward Bound, which my own daughters attended, and other programs designed to assist the needy, it is plain to see where his loyalties lie. Politicians made law changes concerning prison time based on election-year promises and scare tactics, causing overcrowded jails and prisons. If politicians were genuinely serious about public safety, they would create better life transition programs designed to reintroduce prisoners back into society — meaning mandatory education during incarceration. Your stat showing that only 6 percent of prison spending goes toward prison education programs is absolutely embarrassing. It shows that the real use for prisons in the U.S. today is more for business (purposes) and not public safety.

— Mark Boyd 892780
Plainfield, Ind.

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