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Prison Education and Labeling

Michaela's picture

One thing that really stuck out for me in the Silva article was the mention of the scale of intelligence on which prisoners were placed to determine whether their IQs merited effort on the part of the prison system to educate them. These labels, ranging from "above average" to "imbecile", are not only offensive in the ability-minded conscience of today, but also in the idea that there is no hope for nearly half of all prisoners to ever learn something useful. These standardized tests, as we have discussed in class, are in no way a feasible method for extracting useful data about intelligence, and, so far as I know, there is no evidence that they would have been executed under fair conditions to prisoners. It seems that these scores and hurtful labels are an excuse for us to allow prisoners to fall between the cracks without education in incarceration facilities--if they were never bright enough to be educated anyway, we don't have to worry when our rudimentary attempts to educate them are unsuccessful, or don't land released prisoners a job (likely related to unwillingness to hire former prisoners no matter their level of "rehabilitation").

I also couldn't help but be reminded of what someone in our class said a few weeks ago, that the number of beds in a state prison was based around the test scores for FOURTH GRADERS in the state's elementary schools. It's setting people up for failure in both instances--we give up on kids when they're only in the fourth grade, and allow them to fall on the school-to-prison pipeline. And, by prejudging the ability of prisoners to learn anything in their prison higher education courses, we are giving up on them without even giving them a chance in the classroom. 



Sharaai's picture

When I was reading the Silva

When I was reading the Silva article, this statement really struck me as well. I just highlighted the words "High moron", "Low moron" and "Imbecile" because I didn't really know what to take from it. I was shocked and disgusted by the use of these words and my thoughts were completely jumbled. I couldn’t believe that the researchers of this data had actually used these words. Words that connect prisoners to being “lower forms” of human life, incapable of learning and being “normal” and law-abiding citizens.

 My mind quickly ran to the idea of standardized tests in schools and what that really means for the students. Using standardized test to evaluate a school as a whole can have the same effects as these tests had on the importance of education in prisons. Many of times, schools with low test scores are labeled as failing schools and put into this box that isolates them from “successful” schools.  I wonder if this is the same box that helps states predict how many prison beds they are going to need in the future? I honestly just have so many thoughts running through my mind and I can’t wait to discuss as class, in live.

Another question I have is in accordance to the Jones and d’Errico piece. When it comes to evaluating our own positions in the classroom, in the facility with our classmates and the workers, what should we evaluate? Can we recognize that we are privileged to be able to walk into the facility and have them? Can we not forget our privilege of coming from Bryn Mawr and being able to walk out of the facility?