This Convict’s Plea To Take College Classes Behind Bars Will Change How You See Prison Education

Image courtesy citylimits.org
Image courtesy citylimits.org

By Casey Harper

In a New York prison, one convict is asking for a college education behind bars.

John J. Lennon, an inmate at Attica Correctional Facility, says inmates are constantly inundated with television, and that what flashes on the TV screen is a focal point of prison life. While watching TV is hardly punishment, Lennon says in a New York Times editorial that the technology is missing out on a cheap, easy way to educate prisoners and reduce recidivism.

“What if, a few times a week, massive open online courses, or MOOCs, were streamed on the prison’s internal station, channel 3?,” Lennon said. “Companies like Coursera already record university lectures — in subjects like psychology, sociology, existentialism, economics and political science — and stream them online for free. The MOOCs, which are free for the rest of the world, could help American prisoners become more educated and connected.”

Lennon was convicted of drug dealing and murder in 2004 and entered prison in his 20′s with a ninth grade education and a 28-year sentence. He points to the decline of prison education programs as a reason for high recidivism rates.

“When the colleges left, the hope did, too, and when uneducated prisoners get out, they often come back,” Lennon said.

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