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Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 28, 2015 at 6:08 AM

Education for inmates: Create valuable members of society

Bravo, for The Seattle Times’ endorsement of Washington state providing education for convicted inmates [“Educating inmates is a wise investment for Wash.,” Opinion, Jan. 23]. To use the tired phrase, this would seem to be a no-brainer.

You would wish that when an inmate is released that he or she would be able to stay out of prison and be a productive member of society. But without some schooling or education to enable him or her to do so, it’s almost a guarantee of failure. They need to be able to get a job and be able to support themselves. They also need the support of the community that the inmate once caused harm.

If you think the answer to a crime problem is to just lock people up and make it as tough on them as possible as a part of the punishment, you shouldn’t be surprised that they reoffend and end up back in prison. And the word “punishment” is a key to the problem, as most people’s philosophy concerning criminals is punishment, punishment and more punishment. We are a revenge society and vengeance must be extracted from perpetrators — throw away the key to their cells.

But guess what, my fellow citizens: Most convicts, rightly or wrongly convicted (and there are many of the latter situation but that is another story), will eventually be released from prison. And then what? If they have no legitimate survival skills to get a job, have a home and be able to get on with a well-lived life, they’ll be forced to rely on the only things they know — the things that got them in prison in the first place. Is that what we really want?

Sure, people who actually do the crimes do deserve some punishment — but not continuously. And what’s with denying a released convict the right to vote? Don’t we want these people to fully participate in society as good and productive citizens? How can they feel included while being shunned?

Richard B. Ellenberger, Normandy Park

Comments | More in Education | Topics: education, inmates, justice

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