A prison is not the ideal environment for learning skills and knowledge. That is, when we are talking about the skills and knowledge needed to function in the outside world with a legal job and citizenship.
My facilitator friend shared with me his views on day to day life in prison:
|“Picture a full grown male running down a hallway naked, screaming “help they are trying to rape me, help!” and things all around carry on as if nothing has happened. You’re sitting in the chow hall at a table,and there’s four people to a table. As you are sitting there, all of a sudden the table behind you and the three prisoners at your table out of the blue erupt into violence. Knives appear as if by magic,and within 5-seconds there’s blood everywhere. Guards are running in to try to stop a possible murder. Well it had become such a part of my world, I would merely lift my tray and move to another table. My only concern being they don’t knock my tray of food over – nothing more, because it’s none of my business. Just like the guy running down the hall screaming rape. It’s all none of my business. Now say the blood got on my shirt, while they were stabbing that guy – now they have just made it my business, and someone would have to pay for the cleaning of my shirt. You see it’s madness, and you either go along with the madness as long as it doesn’t hurt you. I follow my own rules. I realized if you have a problems you deal with them hard, fast, quick and in a hurry.”
As you can imagine, an environment where violence can erupt at the drop of a hat, requires constant vigilance. This prevents people from focusing on their learning content. Compare this with Japan, where every evening an hour mandatory study in a one person cell is imposed on foreign prisoners. (Japanese study with 4 cellmates in a larger cell)
Although prisoners have a cell they share with someone else, this is not necessarily the environment one can learn in. As one inmate put it “I feel there is not enough air in my cell for two persons, so everybody goes out into the dayroom.” Since the dayroom is crowded, this is also not an area for professional development.
I do hope the focus in incarceration will shift towards rehabilitation instead of locking people away. They do develop, but in the direction of a more hardened and professional criminal. That is not the society one wants to live in.