Thursday, February 26, 2009

go to jail, go to school

* 75 percent were reading somewhere between the fourth- and sixth-grade levels.
* 90 percent never had a legal job.
* 90 percent were self-identified addicts.
* 80 percent were self-identified victims of sexual or physical violence as a child.
* 65 percent had been placed in a special-education class at some point.
* 75 percent were high school dropouts.

These numbers faced Sunny Schwartz back in 1990 when she was hired to create programs for the inmates of the newly built, newly organized county jail in San Francisco. She says, “These were incredible obstacles. If I thought about it for too long, I got depressed. … I knew this population could not afford to opt out [of taking classes] or they would be right back in our jails within months. … [C]lasses would be mandatory.”

Prisoners were unhappy. So were, to Schwartz’s surprise, some of the deputies who policed the jail, convinced the requirement would be so unpopular that the inmates would riot. “Some [colleagues] thought it was unconstitutional – that we couldn’t force the inmates to learn if they didn’t want to. … Every day in the jails, we strip-searched people, forced them to spread their cheeks, squat and cough, while a deputy sheriff inspected their anal cavity. None of the staff complained about the constitutional rights of inmates because of that security measure.”

Compulsory education? They didn’t get it as kids. Isn’t education the law in this land? I had to do 13 years. It wasn’t a total waste of time, though that’s not an endorsement. Convicted criminals being required to learn the three Rs? Uh. I’m okay with that.

source: Dreams from the Monster Factory: a tale of prison, redemption, and one woman’s fight to restore justice to all, by Sunny Schwartz

2 comments:

David Lee said...

Showing up for school is one thing, learning another. It may have been mandatory for us to go to school but if we didn't graduate what was the consequence?

Glenn Ingersoll said...

If we didn't graduate, what was the consequence? (shrug) I fukkn graduated so I don't know what not graduating would have offered. A quicker path to Mom getting on my case?

Jail without classes sounds really really really boring, if not stressful. A lot of bad daytime television cranked up loud, competing with bad radio cranked up loud, competing with people shit talking and hassling each other. Whee!

Stay in jail till you can complete a sentence? Ha!