Wednesday, May 13, 2009

California Prisons

I have a research proposal paper due tommorow for Soc, and I want to write about prisons. Actually everything in the course is really interesting- eugenics, mixed race personal identity, public education, party politics, globalization, mass media- we haven't really talked about prisons so I don't know whether I can choose them as my topic. I will probably submit 2 proposals, one on a course theme and one on prisons.

Because this is really interesting. I have been making my way through the 10 article series at The Atlantic called the Prison-Industrial Complex.
"But the jails have no room, and the huge caseloads maintained by most probation officers often render probation meaningless. An ideal caseload is about twenty-five to fifty offenders; some probation officers in California today have a caseload of 3,000 offenders. More than half the state's offenders on probation will most likely serve their entire term without ever meeting or even speaking with a probation officer. Indeed, the only obligation many offenders on probation must now fulfill is mailing a postcard that gives their home address."

"Well, that doesn't sound too effective, but it also doesn't sound too oppressive" I thought. And then a few paragraphs later: "About half the California prisoners released on parole are illiterate." Well how do they send in a postcard, that is not really a fair requirement. I think the point Eric Schlossm is making is that they will have a terrible rate of adjusting to outside of prison life. I am going to investigate the meaning of illiterate. BRB.

maybe I should do a research paper on literacy, because that is fascinating (I love sociology, actually, I will have to take more courses.). Is it hard to learn to read as an adult, like it is said to be harder to learn a new language? I would be so frustrated by being illiterate. Not just because school would be a lot harder and I couldn't read blogs, that is not what I mean. I mean interpreting signs, and contracts, and leases, and how to manuals (by which I mean the internet), and yes, sending postcards. I am not sure what the definition of literacy the parole department thing is using, but the definition does not seem very open to interpretation.

But at the same time, they must mean something different, because that is impossible for half of people on probation to not be able to read and write.

okay, I have to be productive and get everything ready for tommorow, and also eat something because it is 3pm, but just glancing at the data box on the right at the top of that wiki page, it days there is a 99% literacy rate. I mean, right? You go to school, they show you phonics (ergh!), make your parents sign off your reading log every night (which at least ensures you can do a signature :) ), the whole class has to read aloud very, very, very slowly, and it all sucks but then you can read. Although.... I must say that as I learned to read prior/independent of all that, I was not taught to read via such methods- it may well be impossible. And even if the people on probabtion we are talking about dropped out of school... you would have to drop out at the age of 8.

Here is more, from the Functional Illiteracy wiki page:

All over the U.S.A. 30 million (14% of adults) are unable to perform simple and everyday literacy activities. [1]

The National Center for Education Statistics provides more detail. Literacy is broken down into three parameters: prose, document, and quantitative literacy. Each parameter has four levels: below basic, basic, intermediate, and proficient. For prose literacy, for example, a below basic level of literacy means that a person can look at a short piece of text to get a small piece of uncomplicated information; while a person who is below basic in quantitative literacy would be able to do simple addition. In the US, 14% of the adult population is at the "below basic" level for prose literacy; 12% are at the "below basic" level for document literacy; and 22% are at that level for quantitative literacy. Only 13% of the population is proficient in these three areas—able to compare viewpoints in two editorials; interpret a table about blood pressure, age, and physical activity; or compute and compare the cost per ounce of food items.

1 comment:

flyingvan said...

You're sort of hovering around a key issue. I've heard complaints that the justice system is biased towards minorities since there are so many in prison. It's actually biased against low intelligence, as that is a more common thread. Our schools insist on treating everyone the same, and if someone can't do the basics, they get a social promotion anyway. Schools should not assume everyone's college bound. If they show aptitude, regardless of race, college prep makes sense. If they don't, then offer more basic level courses----give them the most you possibly can.
Then, attach trade schools to colleges. People that want to pursue sports often end upwith a business degree that they have no attachment to. If they could still play college sports then end up with a marketable trade, they'd have a good fall back when the sports thing doesn't pan out (the vast majority.
It's all about dropping barriers to success. Those barriers come from to many places. There is no excuse for illiteracy though