The words of Mr. Hugo, “He who opens a school door, closes a prison…” are fitly spoken in any culture or time-period of history. What convincing proof is there that this is true?
Education opens the door of the mind which travels the hallway of possibility exploring the rooms of ideas. The reason this value is paramount to me is because it was not traditionally available growing up and the struggle I experienced to graduate from college at 50 years of age made learning for me all that more precious! Once I started down the “hallway of possibility”, I was overwhelmed with the breathtaking array of options available to me.
Thinking back to when education begins in the life of a child, I found research published in 2009 in The Washington Post which indicates that the blank slate of a child’s mind is intricately impressionable, even before birth. Children can hear and process sounds in their final trimester before birth. “According to Angela Friederici, one of the authors of the study, which was recently published in the journal Current Biology, babies in the last trimester of development in utero respond to noise and can sense the mother’s voice. ‘The sense of hearing is the first sensory system that develops,’ she said, but because amniotic fluid muffles sounds, [sic] “what gets through are primarily the melodies and intonation of the respective language.’”
Considering this research, it is easy to see how simple and early the education process develops with a child learning the language of the mother. There is no cost for this education, and when continued, it can truly lead to a child’s full preparation for adulthood with options that prevent any involvement in an unsafe choice that could lead to imprisonment. It has been said that “idleness is the devil’s workshop”, and if that blank slate of a child’s mind is not filled with creativity and possibilities, it will default to darkness, following the temporary satisfaction of pleasures that lead to incarceration.
I have observed this situation with several adults I have worked with in my career of human services. One such example was a baby born in Germany to a mother who worked as a prostitute and shoved the baby’s crib into the closet to be able to continue her activities without the bother of caring for her child. The baby was adopted 9 months later by a military family there on duty as a dentist, but the deep scars impacted her choices later in life. After multiple arrests and incarcerations – 32 when I lost count – she began to seriously consider her life and make choices that led her to this current year of freedom and independence, living in her own apartment and graduating from parole and probation. She was one year short of a college degree when her life fell apart.
Another situation and one of my favourites, is that of a person convicted of murder, grand larceny and forgery who spent years in prison. He turned that time into an opportunity to educate others through the lessons he learned because he chose to have no ill feelings toward the penal system. He teaches the importance of honesty about why a person ends up in prison in the first place and the danger of aggression that is not curbed. Another way of looking at the futile results of incarceration is that energy is displaced from a positive purpose to a negative nature in the prisoner’s outlook towards life.
Lynn Bachman with the Coalition for Christ prison ministry states that “‘If you’re out here and you’re involved in any type of mentoring program, you’re preventing people from going to prison. You’re keeping that problem from having to deal with them coming out. We need to start working on it before they go in.’” Though there are still efforts at rehabilitation within a prison, it is much more effective and cost-efficient to prevent the journey there in the first place. Not only is recidivism a tragic reality of many repeat offenders, it further deteriorates self-worth and job skills each time it occurs.
What will you do today to prevent just one person in this generation from taking the dark pathway of incarceration instead of the bright one of education? We may not be able to close prison doors completely for the rest of time, but we can reduce the numbers who go there if we only make the effort to share what we have with others.