One prisoner has gone to one of the world’s biggest publications to share his views that more correctional facilities should give inmates a chance to learn.
John J. Lennon is currently in lockup at Attica Correctional Facility in New York and he’s part of a small educational program that has changed the way he sees the world and himself. As one of 23 inmates at the institution, he would love to see prison education programs expand. Since Attica houses 2,300 prisoners, Lennon and his classmates make up the extreme minority (only about 1 percent of the prison’s population).
As he wrote in the New York Times, he believes that inmates would take advantage of online courses being broadcast. Currently, he said that the TVs in lock up are used as “an incapacitation tool; it’s a tool to keep us entertained in cells.” However, he has no doubt that some would watch more educational programming to enlighten themselves if given the opportunity. He wrote:
“If inmates had the chance to watch [an online course] then they might say, ‘Hey, look what’s on Channel 3, it’s an interesting lecture from a Duke professor on existentialism or philosophy.’ Believe it or not, people will tune in, and after the lecture they’re going to go on their gates, hang on their bars, and they’re going to talk about it.”
He also argues that educating inmates would create a safer environment for everyone since inmates would be using their time on more productive endeavors. According to Lennon, the less idle time they have, the less likely they are to get caught up in destructive behavior.
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“If I’m working on a paper banging away on my typewriter, I have other things on my mind. I’m not shucking and jiving in the prison yard” he stated, adding that many prison administrators agree with him. “They understand it’s makes prison a safer place if you have a group of guys with their eyes on the prize who are trying to change themselves.”
Outside of just keeping a prisoner’s mind occupied, Lennon argues that making college courses available could also change the way that some inmates view the world. It certainly changed his.
“I came into prison looking up to gangsters, now I look up to scholars and intellectuals like Doran Larson, Tim Golden, Bill Keller, Nicholas Kristof, all these Pulitzer-winning journalists,” Lennon wrote. “Education has changed the lens through which I view the world, I don’t look up to gangsters anymore. I think it’s a disgusting lifestyle.”
Offering more college courses in prison might not be a bad to add to the rehabilitation process.