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Brazilian Prisoners Can Read Books For A Shorter Sentence
June 26, 2012
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Here's a novel way (ahem) to approach prison terms: some prisoners in Brazil will be able to shorten their sentences by up to 48 days a year - by reading books. Inmates at four federal prisons in Brazil will receive four days off their sentence for each book they finish reading. They can choose from a selection of 12 works of literature, philosophy, science, or classics.

In order to prove that they have read and comprehended each work, prisoners will write an essay that must "make use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing", according to a notice published Monday in an official government publication. A special panel will decide which inmates are eligible to participate in the "Redemption Through Reading" program.

According to Sao Paulo lawyer Andre Kehdi, who directs a book donation program for prisons, one goal of the program is to change the prisoners' viewpoint: "A person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world".

This is not the first time a prisoner has had his sentence reduced based on his reading habits - a judge in Northern California ruled last month that an alleged violent criminal could be set free, provided he "read and complete book reports".

Husna Haq, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, has some questions about how Brazil's new program is expected to work: "How does reading help rehabilitate prisoners? Is this the best way to offer inmates a sentence-shortening initiative? Is it truly constructive?"

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