Making Prison Schoolwork Pay

(Photo: Barret Anspach)

Prisoners in Brazil now have a path to reduced sentences: schoolwork.  The Chicago Tribune reports that:

Inmates in four federal prisons holding some of Brazil’s most notorious criminals will be able to read up to 12 works of literature, philosophy, science or classics to trim a maximum 48 days off their sentence each year, the government announced.

Prisoners will have up to four weeks to read each book and write an essay which must “make correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing,” said the notice published on Monday in the official gazette.

If Brazil is bribing its prisoners to do schoolwork, can bribing students be far behind?

(HT: Marginal Revolution)


I find it disturbing that the closest analogy for notorious criminals in Federal Prisons is "Students in Schools".

Also it would be interesting to know what research says on the impact of "Good Literature" on a persons behaviour. After all there have been so many readers quoting how a particulariece of literature "changed their lives"


You had me up until "joined-up writing." Really? Who cares, as long as it's legible? As an engineer and part-time writer I write a lot, but I always print. Learning cursive (unsuccessfully) was without a doubt the biggest waste of time of my elementary education.


It is kind of sad. Pretty soon bribes will start popping up in school environments, and then people will be bribing at their workplaces, and then pretty soon there will be government level bribery, and then chaos and anarchy.


Not sure if you are aware of this but "bribery" already occurs in the workplace - called performance reviews, awards, respect, raises, and bonuses. Government also has "bribery" in the form of incentives crafted to support programs in the government's interest, such as grants, loans, and tax incentives.


Actually, such reward systems are not bribes. Neither is the reward system described in this post. To bribe is to offer cash, goods or services to someone that is able to provide you with influence or preferential treatment in return. You don't bribe the grocery store in return for food, and employers do not bribe their workers at an hourly rate. It's called a payment or a reward, and shame on Freakonomics for not understanding the difference. (Or neglecting to understand it in order to generate controversy)


I teach the GED program at our county's prison. I think the idea is a good one, but the writing aspect will ensure that very few, if any, inmates "pass." Very simply, I see some HIGHLY INTELLIGENT inmates who love to read, can think critically, and so forth, but having been out of school for so long, many of their math and writing skills are either rusty or undeveloped (many dropped out of school).

While we always shoot for perfection, I am happy to receive writing that I at least articulates a degree of creativity and thought--even if words are misspelled and punctuation is poorly done. Let that be the bar and I imagine you'll see many more successful completions of the readings...and that alone may make a tremendous difference in a person's life.