If we believe, as I do, that one of the more important purposes of criminal justice is to protect the public and, by that token, the rehabilitation of offenders, then across much of the world we are going about it in a pretty odd way. Too many people are sent to prison and, when they get there, they enter academies of crime that will in many cases ensure that this visit will not be their last one. Nor will this be solely a problem for the prisoners, because during their various (usually all too brief) interludes outside they will tend to be able to pack in an extraordinary amount of crime.
One of the few ways of doing something about this is to offer prisoners an education. I have previously in this blog referred to my own somewhat modest efforts to do something about this. But now I read that, in Indiana in the United States, the Governor is cutting funding for prison education and is, moreover, moving to ensure that whatever provision is made is strictly vocational.
Given that research in Indiana has shown that prison education reduces recidivism by 29 per cent, it might be thought that it is a more than sensible investment. In reality of course most people don’t want to see prison as being about rehabilitation, but about punishment. However, treating prisoners with dignity and offering them a future is in everyone’s interests. As public budgets are under stress all over the world it is to be hoped that this particular lesson is not forgotten.