The evils of the world are due to moral defects as much as to the lack of intelligence. But the human race has not hitherto discovered any method of eradicating moral defects...Intelligence, on the contrary, is easily improved by methods known to every competent educator. Therefore, until some method of teaching virtue has been discovered, progress will have to be sought by improvement of intelligence rather than of morals. -Bertrand Russel, Skeptical Essays, (London: Allen & Unwin, 1977), 127
People lives by a set of ethics, whether good or bad, displayed by their actions. Yet, where does that inner foundation start? Does it come from mom, or from dad? Or is it the church and village which prepares the child? Bertrand Russel believes such foundations are laid by education. He may be right. Quakers formed the first prison in the U. S in 1791. Their goals were to ensure public safety and to rehabilitate those they locked up so as to bring back productive members of society. Not ones to discredit spiritual teachings, however, they realized the most effective means for accomplishing rehabilitate was through education of prisoners.
Bertrand Russel espouses civilization's moral defects are due to ignorance. He believes academics are the answer for countering evils in the world. Basically, education gives people ethics. However, this perception is a fallacy, an incorrect deduction. Prisoners have ethics, but its skewed ethics from a lack of knowledge. In this essay I will refer to ethics and morals, beliefs and actions, interchangeably. I will also illustrate prisoners skewed ethics, why they are skewed, and how Education and Second Chance programs accomplishes Bertrand Russel's proposition and fulfills the Quakers objective of bring back productive members of society.
As a Texas inmate for two decades, I have witnessed the misapplied ethics of prisoners. Gangs will make sure their members have food, stationary, and hygiene. Yet, they will also give each other harmful drugs and alcohol. Men in prison will fight behind abusive comments towards their mothers, sisters, and daughters. Yet, are verbally abusive female guards in addition exhibitionism, exposing themselves. These are displays of men who are immoral more than amoral, improper ethics rather than none at all.
These skewed ethics are witnessed when prisoners are afraid they won't get what they need, so they spend their time and energy pursuing abundance, this is avarice. When they are afraid justice will not come and others will not get their just desserts and so they dole out vengeance themselves, they live out wrath. When they feel the need to be better than others and so engineer others down fall, they fall into envy. When they feel empty and so stuff themselves with things they will not share, this is gluttony. When they do not understand love and so use people without concern for them, this is lust. When they are unwilling to make the effort to be better people so don't even try, this is sloth. When they are afraid they will not be accepted by other so they hide behind a false, inflated reputation, they suffer vainglory. Prisoners have a system of belief and values they live by. However, these ethics are skewed deriving from ignorance due to a lack of education. Prisoners entering institutions with these moral defects eventually will return home with this same ignorance.
Prisoners return to society with skewed ethics because prisons are not concerned with helping them structure their lives for reintegration back into the community. This is because prisons are more about detaining and public safety than rehabilitation. In 2020 there were roughly 5,000 state penitentiaries nation wide, yet, only 10% had education programs. Many of those programs were found in federal prisons. Shawn Bell, a lifer in the South Dakota State Penitentiary writes, "If the government and its citizens really want to rehabilitate prisoners, then education and job training should be top priority". Education provides inmates with a broader view of life,choices, and self, shinning a light on their skewed ethics.
In addition, Education and Second chance programs teach prisoners critical thinking skills. Skills which help prisoners evaluate the consequences of their ethics well before those thoughts manifest into actions. Christie Donner, executive director of Colorado Criminal Reform, says, "Education helps you see yourself differently, you have different ambitions and hopes and dreams and all that kind of good stuff. People can find a whole new life." Additionally, the knowledge gained through education give prisoners power in their choices. The power to choose instills courage in prisoners for taking the next steps on the path of rehabilitation. They gain a wider, broader understanding of the world and how their morals will affect their future success.
Education and Second chance programs fosters positive communities. A 2013 RAND Corporation study found prisoners who participate in educational programs while behind bars were close to 50% less likely to return within those critical three years of freedom. Why? Because affective education produces life changing experiences that affect attitudes, emotions, and values ( ethics).
Inmates learn how to receive, respond, and organize, traits that overlaps personal growth and self-realization (again proper ethics). These characteristics produce well rounded productive citizens who provide for their families, support their communities, and become role models for the next generation.
In conclusion, Education and Second chance programs makes a major difference in prisoners' lives. Education and Second chance programs demand the development of the human personality. They fosters positive attributes such as initiative, identity, intimacy, and integrity, countering negative attributes of neediness, doubt, isolation, and despair.
Prisoners live with the fact that people will forever regard them as nothing more than criminals. Their positive achievements and contributions questioned for validity and any good achieved will be quickly forgotten. Still, Education and Second chance programs change concepts, perspectives and worldviews, helping prisoners face the future with confidence and enthusiasm. Education and Second chance programs not only provide inmates with the gems of wisdom and knowledge, they also provides inmates with something more intrinsically valuable. They provide Hope.
Troy Glover is currently a junior in the Heart of Texas College of Ministry. The Heart of Texas College of Ministry is a Bachelor of Ministry degree seminary. Upon graduation students are sent transferred to various Texas prison to change the prison culture. Troy Glover aspires to become an author, poet, public speaker and Life Coach. You may contact him through JPay or securustech.net
 Shawn Bell, adapted from Charlotte West "Nothing academic is offered here" College Inside August 1 1, 2022* 2. [according to the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison.]
This essay was the most academic submission I received, printed out with a handwritten note accompanying his computer-printed essay. Even so, his footnotes and citations had to be manually copied, typed and formatted. College students in prison have access to these resources, which are still limited. His brilliant contrast of immoral versus amoral acts and "skewed ethics" culminates in his observation that critical thinking skills are not fostered in his prison environment. He posits that ethics produce well-rounded people ready for society with confidence and enthusiasm.
His biography mentioned that once he completes college, he will be sent to a different facility to "change the culture" inside that prison. Moving to a new facility is stressful, and he accepts that responsibility. After reading his essay, I wondered why the burden of changing the culture rests with the person who is incarcerated - the prison system acknowledges the value of the private education men like Troy receive, and after building community with their fellow scholars, the graduates are compelled to start over somewhere else. To benefit the new prison.
Like Troy, I have hope that prison culture evolves provide more educational opportunities. My hope is these opportunities for self-edification center student needs instead of an amorphous goal of "culture change." His carefully constructed arguments lead me to believe that the ethical approach is to do nothing less.