Sunday, June 22, 2014

And prisoners are smart!

I heard something new about prisoners last night.

I was invited to be the guest of a book club. The readers had just finished my book that tells the Maurice Carter story, SWEET FREEDOM. And the discussion inevitably led to prisons and prisoners in general.

Then one of the book club members, who is a teacher, said that while attending a teachers conference the participants were told that prisoners had a higher IQ average than the general public. Wow!

Upon reflection, that did not really surprise me.

I have heard prisoners in the Muskegon SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS Circle recite lengthy passages from Shakespeare works, flawlessly quoting the Bard of Avon with expression and gestures.

I have seen legal documents prepared by so-called jailhouse lawyers because many inmates cannot afford real-life attorneys...documents that would amaze you, and some of which have been effective in the courts. I think they amazed judges as well.

I hear of conscientious inmates who serve as teachers and mentors, helping others to become better and more educated citizens during their time of incarceration.

I have read countless letters from inmates carefully prepared, flawlessly written, and typed without a single error.

It reminded me of the time when I was in school, back in the 40s and 50s, when we labeled some kids “dumb” just because they couldn't seem to read or write or spell up to the level of the rest of us. In those days no one ever heard of or gave consideration to such a thing as learning disabilities. Little did we know that those kids were probably smarter than we were, but struggling with something as simple as dyslexia.

So, in addition to being children of God, or as Jesus called them, “the least of these brothers of mine,” prisoners are also smart. Their IQ is probably higher than yours or mine.

All the more reason for us to dig in and find better ways to recycle these damaged individuals and make them productive members of society.

Punishment, retribution, an “eye-for-an-eye” isn't working.

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