Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shakespeare Saved My Life: Lessons from Behind Bars

I recently read Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Dr. Laura Bates. She tells of her experience teaching Shakespeare in a Maximum Security Prison in Indiana and of one student in particular, Larry Newton, who has been in prison since he was seventeen and will die in prison.

Newton's whole world was changed by being exposed to Shakespeare and has been working from behind bars to help keep other young people going down the same road from following in his footsteps. There are many who argue against educating prisoners such as Larry, but he makes the following case:

"Why should we do good for bad people?" The answer is because 'anything else would be bad.' If we are not doing good for bad people, then we are doing bad for bad people. We should not be working on ways to do bad for isolated populations of people; rather we should work on developing good no matter who is on the receiving end. That is our obligation to society. . .  

We cannot risk not helping. The vast majority of prisoners are going to return home. They are going to be our neighbors and they are going to be around our loved ones. The question really comes down to: what kind of prisoner do you want living next to you? No matter how you feel about the subject, the reality is that these prisoners are indeed coming home, and you do have the power to help shape what kind of neighbor they will be. Why education? Because it is the one science that overwhelmingly works. 

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