The United States leads the world with more than 2.3 million people incarcerated. The American war on crime has created a rise in prison population measuring the largest in the world. The “tough on crime”, “crack down on crime” and the “zero tolerance” policies all refer to policies that encourage punishment as a response to crime. The effects of these policies are filling our prisons and detention facilities at an alarming rate. The growth in prison population is largely due to tougher state and federal sentencing imposed since the mid-1980s. Results from the National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) suggest that prisoners are more likely to have literacy difficulties than the general population. The relationship between the prison population and literacy is prevalent.
First, the “get tough on crime” policies are finding their way into America’s prison systems as the prison population continues to grow. Americans are tired of crime and encourage their Politian’s to advocate for harsher treatment of convicted criminals. The Federal Prison policies dictate that a prisoner does not have the right to expect privacy in a prison setting, nor have the right to speak freely if protesting; they cannot refuse to work or to choose what work they will do. Prisoners do have a right to visitors in order to stay connected with society. They also have the right to an education.
Second, in an environment in which the concentration is on punishment, politicians and the American public are frustrated with prisoners living in a “resort-like” facility which might include opportunities to participate in: watching cable TV, weightlifting rooms, free education, religious affiliations, and libraries. The average cost of keeping a prisoner in a U. S. prison, on average, runs from $15,000 to $18,000 a year. Some Americans would like to reduce or eliminate these privileges in order to lower prison spending and apply that money toward crime prevention.
Third, another popular idea among “tough-on-crime” policymakers has been putting prisoners to work for private contractors or the state. The money earned by the prisoners is then used to compensate for the prison expenses. One advantage to this would be that the prisoner might learn a skill that could be used after being released. However, not all prison-work programs teach work skills to inmates. Some states have re-established the chain gang to discourage prisoners from getting the perception that prison life is pleasant.
In what follows, the relationship between the prison population and literacy becomes evident. According to the most recent documentation, prisoners in state prisons have significant educational needs: 68% of State prison prisoners were high school dropouts and 40% had a learning disability that interfered with their learning.
The first American prison was opened in 1791. Almost seven years after opening the prison a school within the prison was started. With...