By James R. Smith
The failing system of education hinders everyone’s equal opportunity of gaining an education. Through education, and with the assistance of the human family, we must seek to change the attitudes and internal feelings of how people view prisoners; through legislation, we must advocate a change that will fix the failing educational system. Anyone who starts out with the conviction that the road to equality is only one lane wide will inevitably create a traffic jam and make changing the system longer. We must stand as One Person, One Voice to effectuate a change. To deprive a person, especially those who are incarcerated, of an education is wrong.
Prison-based education is the single most effective tool for lowering recidivism. On moral and practical grounds, the mission of rehabilitation by education needs to be returned to its proper priority in the prison systems.
Prisoners – whatever they have done – are still human beings worthy of some level of respect. To quote the words of Justice Thurgood Marshall: “When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded…” So why shouldeducation be denied to prisoners? The removal of the inmate’s opportunity to an education effectively closes his or her mind to new ideas. His or her ability for self-realization and exchange of opinions will become diminished. Is this what society wants? I don’t believe so.
During an address given on July 1, 1909 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, President Woodrow Wilson stated: “The educated man is to be discovered by his point of view, by the temper of his mind, by his attitude towards life, and his fair way of thinking. He can see, he can discriminate, he can combine ideas and perceive whither they lead; he has insight and comprehension. His mind is a practiced instrument of appreciation. He is more apt to contribute light than heat to a discussion…”