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Prisoners in small towns in Brazil are shortening their sentences: For every 3-8 hour shift a prisoner pedals a bike, they get one day off their sentence, according to BBC News. The energy they create is being used to light street lamps for the public. A writer at TheNextWeb.com, describes the initiative as “brilliant” and “remarkable” adding, “…especially considering all [the] time inmates normally spend passing time confined in their cells“. The only brilliant component of the initiative is allowing prisoners, who were once a menace to their community, to make a positive contribution to society during their imprisonment. The initiative fails miserably at being marketed as an ‘incentive’ for prisoners to reduce their sentences.
I strongly believe in redemption, as nearly my entire family was imprisoned for engaging in criminal activity in Chicago; however, prisoners should be influenced to do well for their community because it’s the “right” thing to do- not because it will allow them to quickly return to those people whose lives they’ve impacted negatively.
Brazil’s other initiative, “Redemption Through Reading” proves to be a bit more rewarding to the prisoners and, essentially, the community. The program allows inmates to cut four days off of their sentence, or up to 48 days per year, for each book they read and write a report for upon completion. The reports must be written neatly and must not stray from the topic of the book, according to the law. Prisoners can read literary classics and scientific and philosophical tomes, among others. The two aforementioned initiatives are in response to Brazil’s overcrowded prisons. According to the ministry of justice, Brazil’s prisons are at 167% of capacity, as of December 2011. The prison population has more than doubled since 2001.
I salute Brazil for attempting to be innovative in molding prisoners to become positive contributions to society, as America seems to want to increase imprisonment as a means of free labor for corporate giants.