Brazil's 'Redemption through Reading' Program

Brazilian inmates can now have their prison sentences shortened by reading books from an approved list and writing essays about them.

From the Christian Science Monitor:

That’s right, Brazil’s government recently rolled out a new program, Redemption through Reading, that allows inmates to shave four days off their sentence for every book they read, with a maximum of 48 days off their sentence per year, Reuters reported Monday. The program will be extended to certain prisoners in four federal prisons in Brazil holding some of the country’s most notorious criminals.

According to Reuters, a special panel will determine which inmates are eligible to participate. Those chosen can choose from works of literature, philosophy, science, or the classics, reading up to 12 books a year. Flashback from grade school: they’ll have four weeks to read each book and write an essay that must “make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins, and legible joined-up writing,” according to a notice published Monday in Brazil’s official gazette.

“A person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world,” Sao Paulo lawyer Andre Kehdi, who directs a book donation project for prisons, told Reuters.

In theory, this all sounds wonderful. The Redemption through Reading program seems like a great way to tackle to problem of overcrowded prisons while educating convicts. However, I'm a little skeptical of how this will pan out in practice. As a college student, I can tell you that being able to write an essay about a book doesn't always mean that you have to read the entire thing. I don't really know how these prisons will go about checking that inmates have read and understood the material, but it's an interesting idea and I'm curious to see what comes of it.

If you're interested in helping prisoners better themselves through reading closer to home, consider volunteering with local charity Read Between the Bars, which sends packages of books to those incarcerated around the state. More information about that group can be found at their Facebook page.