The most powerful tool in the world is knowledge, and when an individual is educated, they can do whatever they set their mind to. Education in the prison systems of the United States is extremely important, and there should be more educational opportunities for inmates while they are incarcerated.
While touring the Livingston County Jail as part of my time volunteering there, both deputies reported how important the education classes were to the inmates. There, they explained how education classes ranging from OSCA certifications to GDE classes were used as a system of checks and balances, where inmates would have to behave well to attend their weekly classes.
Caption Hammond at Livingston County Jail stated that the difference between the prisoners and other people was that while we all had both stepped out of the front door, they took a left and the rest of us took a right.
The prisoners in Livingston County Jail, and all jails, are deserving of an education and should have opportunities available to them.
One aspect of the Livingston County Jail that was impressive was the quality of the classrooms. There were smart boards as well as a large book collection; it was nothing like the jails often pictured on television. This classroom seemed to have a high quality of materials and indicated that the inmate’s education was prioritized.
Some argue that paying for education for prisoners is not fair because they receive a college level education for free. As The Seattle Times states, however, education is a cost-effective way to reduce the crime rate in communities.
Many of the deputies explained how life inside the prison was drastically different than regular society. In prison, stamps are the highest currency they have. Teaching prisoners how to function in society can help them succeed in a world that feels foreign once they finish their sentence.
Another argument against free education for inmates is that volunteers should not “waste” their time helping criminals readjust into society.
In my volunteering experience at the Livingston County Jail, I can vehemently say it would never be a waste of time.
When I recorded prisoners reading books to their children, most prisoners were extremely grateful, and you could see the appreciation on their faces. It is never a waste of someone’s time to give an individual a moment of peace.
Education is a right that every human deserves to have—whether they get the chance to receive it in four cement walls or in a regular classroom, everyone deserves to learn.
It is never a waste to volunteer your time in a prison. Everyone should take a chance and try it. Whether you would teach a language, a certification program or just basic skills, go and see for yourself what an education can do for a prisoner.