“He, who opens a school door, closes a prison.” – Victor Hugo.
“Men are not prisoners of fate, but only prisoners of their own minds.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The maxim “He, who opens a school door, closes a prison,” exemplifies the role of education in human development. Rather than contribute to existing debates, I am far more interested in how we can collectively develop these concepts to improve humanity, even if they are figurative.
The school in this context epitomizes education that extends beyond the formal acquisition of knowledge to incorporate informal human learning activities. The prison, on the contrary, signifies a place of incarceration. In this aphorism, the school and the prison are introduced as lucid symbols on the opposing sides of civilization, the good and the bad. Civilization breeds two varieties of prisoners, those in the prison of grates and those in the prison of their own minds. Whereas the majority of the populace are in the latter, often, however, those in the prison of grills are notorious for crime.
The evolution of crime has resulted in extensive studies on the relevance of education to crime prevention. Lochner and Moretti (2004) provided evidence to argue increased high school graduations in the United States will significantly reduce crime. This report was corroborated by Machin et al. (2011) with further proof showing increased educational achievement over time reduces crime. Historical facts show early childhood education was a major aspect of welfare education, and Charles Dickens in his time saw the welfare of children from the angle of schooling and crime prevention.
Crimes are the expressions of the impoverished mind, and, the lack of good education. International evidence proves most criminals are less educated than the rest of the public. Statistics from the United States Bureau of Justice, estimates, 69% of inmates in local prisons, 68% of prisoners in state prisons, and 56% of federal prisoners did not have a high school diploma. In the United Kingdom, a study by Machin et al. (2011) shows 2.57% of men aged 21-25 in prison in 2001 had no educational qualifications. Likewise, in Italy, Buonanno and Leonida (2006) confirms over 75% of Italian convicts in 2001, had not completed high school.
The educational approach to crime prevention is a model adopted by developed countries. Mandatory schooling is customary in these nations because through schools young men and women acquire knowledge and training. Besides, education is essential for scientific advancement and sustainable development. It fosters a civilized society, a cohesive community, cultural acceptance, and integration. Also, education guarantees freedom, enlightens, instructs, and engages the mind, creates access to jobs, social security, and responsibility. Individuals participating in extensive studies are less attracted to crime.
Law enforcement agencies agree early childhood education prevents crime. In a survey conducted by George Mason University, high-quality early childhood education and not prison was given the highest scores for effectiveness against crime prevention. The Government-funded Child-Parent Centres observed 3 and 4-year-old children enrolled in the program for 15 years and found those who did not join in the preschool program were 70% more likely to be arrested for a crime at 18 years old. Young offenders represent a significant number of social criminals, which means the lack of early childhood education and a poor college degree. This assessment was validated by Kirstine Hansen (2003) report that shows younger rather than older persons are more likely to commit crimes. These offenders can be prevented from crime. But, not by building more prisons.
The Child-Parent Centre claims investing in early childhood education will result in economic benefits. These benefits render the argument for more prisons obnoxious. A study by Vanderbilt University estimates the economic returns of early childhood education are between $1-1.3 million. Furthermore, the Alliance for Excellent Education claims increasing the high school male graduation rate by 5% will result in annual savings of $18.5 billion. And, the Vera Institute of Justice stated on average, the annual maintenance cost of an inmate in the United States is over $31,000. These analyses show the cost of building prisons is well above what is required to build schools. Preventing crime through education will not only reduce costs but, will also provide savings since less would be required to correct crime.
Advocates of prisons claim it prevents crime by keeping criminals away from the street. The efficacy of this approach has, nonetheless, remained controversial, since those who were incarcerated are often rearrested. Roughly two-thirds of those released from prison are rearrested within three years, and about half reconvicted. Additionally, convicted drug pedlars conduct their illegal activities from the prison. Though prohibited, mobile phones and deadly weapons are sneaked into prisons. Thus, allowing crime in the world most advocated crime prevention facility. What an irony?
Prisons are known to please man’s justice desire because offenders are punished and are removed from society. But, has this practice made the street safer? Prisons may prevent crime, but, rarely prevents the thought of crime, as crimes are solved, thought of crime find expressions in other crimes. This is why offenders having been to prison become recidivists. Thoughts often lead to actions, neither can exist without the other. When thoughts are allowed, it is better imagined, than witnessed, what the uneducated mind is capable of. Quite the reverse, when the mind is educated, it is remarkable how the human being is reformed.
Without instruction, the mind becomes a prison. Even, as I sit on the beach writing this article my mind drift from the topic, and I found myself fighting to gain focus. Other times, lying on the couch searching for ideas to reinforce my piece, my mind roams before I realise it shouldn’t. It’s tough without training to keep the mind focused. As the submission date drew near, giving in to those thoughts is perhaps the worst thing I did to my entry.
With the capacity to enlighten the mind and moderate thoughts, education occupies a significant position in human development and reformation. It produces erudite people, defines an individual’s opinion of values, evaluates actions and makes the complete man. Moreover, education has been effective in forcing nations where it’s like a prison to be feminine to change their cruelty towards women and children. In these countries, women have limited rights. Child neglect is ubiquitous, and female circumcisions are a norm. In extreme cases, girls are taken from school and married to older or aged men. Marriages in these cultures are habitual prisons, where women are enslaved and abused. Only education can change these hostile cultures and mindsets, researches have shown.
Education remains the most efficient and cost-effective approach to crime prevention. John Locke, the 17th century philosopher, stated, at birth, the mind is a tabula rasa. Ideas engraved on it come from experience or perception. Suggesting early purposeful learning teaches children to become responsible adults. On April 12-19 2015, the 13th United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice was held in Doha. The highlight was the significance of universal education, for children and youth to prevent crime, terrorism, corruption, and promote sustainable development. It is striking, how progressive schooling transforms the individual and society. When the mind is sufficiently schooled, it shows in our action, communication, character, and relationship. Accordingly, educating our minds and that of the child will raise a community of erudite men and women that will make prisons passé.