Under the Influence

Inmates in a Brazil prison shorten their sentences by writing book reviews

Those reviews turned out to be remarkable and insightful. So much so, they were turned into an advertising campaign.
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash. (Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash)

A publisher in Brazil, called Editora Carambaia, recently mounted the most unusual marketing campaign. They teamed up with a professor who does remarkable work at a local prison by helping the inmates form a book club.

Carambaia then began donating a wide variety of books to the prison. That book club helped the inmates develop their analytical and communication skills. And out of that came a surprising insight: prison inmates read 9 times more books than civilians. So together with the National Justice Council, the Carambaia publishing house created a program called The Prison Reviews.

The publisher did something that had never been done before—they turned prisoners into book critics. Because the inmates were passionate readers, they were encouraged to write book reviews. They were given 30 days to read a book, then submit a review to be evaluated by a committee.

Those reviews turned out to be remarkable and insightful. So much so, that Carambaia turned those reviews into an advertising campaign.

The reviews were used in magazine ads, social networking posts, radio commercials, bookstore posters and even bookmarks and stationary. Videos were also created so the inmates could deliver their reviews on camera, and a mini-documentary was posted on YouTube showing how participating in the project had enriched their lives.

The Prison Reviews program not only helped improve the prisoners' reading and writing skills and provided the Carambaia publishing house with an innovative advertising campaign, it did one more thing. Each well-written review would shave four days off an inmate's sentence. It fuelled the inmates' passion for reading, it gave them dignity, it gave them hope and it showed the outside world that marginalized people have a voice.

As someone said, the Prison Reviews project allowed inmates to re-write their destiny.

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