An interesting program in Massachusetts allows prisoners to join a book club or go to jail. From the New York Times story: “The class is taught through Changing Lives Through Literature, an alternative sentencing program that allows felons and other offenders to choose between going to jail or joining a book club. At each two-hour meeting, students discuss fiction, memoirs and the occasional poem; authors range from Frederick Douglass to John Steinbeck to Toni Morrison, topics from self- mutilation and family quarrels to the Holocaust and the Montgomery bus boycott.”
According to the story, the program is controversial. It’s not clear that it is successful in aiding rehabilitation. Also, some residents of the community complain that prisoners should not have free access to classes for which students must pay full tuition. Despite those concerns, several participants have called their encounter with literature as causing “changes,” â€œturning points,â€ â€œepiphanies,â€ even â€œgrace,” according to the story.
However, I’m not sure this exchange is the best first-encounter to the classics: “I donâ€™t want to be all negative,â€ the officer begins, â€œbut you have to read this book.â€ Not as in â€œThis is a must-read,â€ but â€œWeâ€™ve had people go to jail for not reading.â€