A special American Bar Association committee has concluded that the millions of dollars Americans pour into hiring more police, expanding the justice system and building more jails may by money down the drain because punishment is not an effective deterrent.
What does work, the ABA found, is to teach prison inmates to read and write so that they are more likely to be able to earn an honest living.
Richard Lynch, ABA literacy program director, told a recent meeting of Washington State judges that about three-fourths of prison inmates are illiterate. Yet, less than 1 percent of prison budget is spent on educating them.
Michael Hemovich, ABA law and literacy chairman, was blunt about the dim prospects of controlling crime by more punitive methods. "Unless we do something about illiteracy...then I think it is hopeless," he told the judges.
Official vengeance may satisfy personal urges to punish wrongdoers, but if books and bars are more effective at stopping crime than bars alone, it is stupid to deny them.
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