College Behind Bars

I think a lot about prison, and our prison systems. This documentary series brings a lot of warmth to my heart. Presented by the renown Ken Burns, this is a look at college opportunities for inmates. It is an idea that a lot of people are against. One such mother expresses her feelings bluntly, these inmates commit crimes and go to prison and are getting a free education, while she is working and paying for her other children to get their education. She states they might as well commit crimes too. But how can you call it a “correctional facility” if you deny the opportunity to correct themselves. As well, not all inmates are cold-blooded killers. A teenager can be sent to prison via the three-strikes law for mere possession of marijuana. Battered women can be sent to prison for defending themselves from the battery. And once they enter those facilities, they are immediately shackled with the identity of “criminal” which will hold them back for the rest of their lives. Believe it or not, education is what decreases recidivism. Without this sort of opportunity, a prisoner merely serves their time, returns to the world, they face all the doors that are closed to them due to the label of “criminal,” job opportunities, housing assistance, etc, and they are forced back into a life of crime.
What this documentary highlighted was the mere act of giving these inmates something to live for, a goal, a reason to work to be better. And I am so astounded by how determined they were. You hear their stories and feel the hopelessness, and admire their will to keep going.