Learning is an ongoing process. It is also a life-long process. There is no fill up point; high school graduation is not the last time the brain has to work. This belief is held by many and it is very wrong. Death is the only end to the learning process, which is growth. Rehabilitation is a form of growth, but punishment is the reversal of growth.
When the young go to prison, they are impressionable and still learning. If there is no organized method, learning will be sought by whatever means. The brain is programmed to constantly take new information and organize it, make it fit into the changing landscape.
If there is no positive information being presented, then the negative will make do. Hence young people in prison are still learning, but what they are learning is how to improve their criminal behavior, how to lie better, new tools of the criminal trade, and new methods of evasion. A downward spiral has been created and there are very few that avoid the journey down.
What they should be learning is more educationally focused material, improvement of reading, writing, math, research, and how to get by in this sorry world. They should be learning job skills, how to get and keep jobs, how to work, how to use a bank account, etc. Also it is important to learn methods of dealing with the taint of being labeled criminal. Most important, once again, is how to find a job. This simple action makes or breaks a person’s life.
Prison is not a vacuum. It must be filled with something and it will be filled with something, if not something of a positive nature, then it will have to be of a negative nature. Herein lies the danger. What the beginning predator can learn in prison is a frightening thing. Relearning or rehabilitation makes far more sense. Replace the negative with the positive on as many levels as possible.
What a fantastic experiment it would be to turn convicts into helpers, to make society’s burden of the prison system into one of its strongest assets. America could actually be what it has always claimed to be, right about everything, and a pioneering leader in everything, education, reform, science, high speed trains or whatever. It is the supposed way America started, with noble intentions and equality and justice for all, not just its light-skinned leaders. Let America rise and begin the next phase of proper rehabilitation in prisons, with education and job skills as the prime focus.