Self-esteem for unemployable convicts

California convicts won’t be able to learn a job skill in prison, says a Los Angeles Times editorial. Instead, they’ll learn to feel good about themselves.

In a policy shift so irrational it could only have been designed by the state prison guards union, 300 vocational education classrooms in state prisons were shuttered at the beginning of the year. This might be understandable if it were a cost-cutting move, but the state is saving little or nothing by closing the courses. The instructors who formerly provided inmates a chance to succeed in the outside world are now conducting self-esteem “modules” instead. These use workbooks hammering the sort of feel-good lessons that some prison experts believe increase, not decrease, recidivism (one can imagine the resulting thought process of an inmate — “I’m gonna be the best darned crook I can be!”).

The self-esteem lessons came out of talks between prison officials and the guards union last year. Cynics say its doomed-to-failure approach was intentional — that it was crafted in consultation with guards who either didn’t believe prisoners could be rehabilitated or who didn’t want something that might diminish their job prospects by lowering recidivism.

Via Number 2 Pencil.

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  1. I guess we’ll be supporting a lot more prisoners.

    Executive Summary of Literacy Behind Prison Walls: Profiles of the Prison Population from the National Adult Literacy Survey:

    As reported in Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at the Results of the National Adult Literacy Survey,(3) individuals demonstrating lower levels of literacy were more likely to be out of the labor force. According to this report, from 34 to 53 percent of adults in Levels 1 and 2 were out of the work force at the time of the survey. Given that over two-thirds of the inmates demonstrate performance in Levels 1 and 2, their prospects for being employed upon release from prison are diminished, unless their skills can be improved considerably.

  2. While I think this is aweful, I notice that the prison guards get no tuition re-imbursment. Now I know that their lame union could fight for this, but maybe the state could throw them a bone and give them a cheap ride at at least the CalStates.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    My local paper just published the salaries of Palo Alto city workers, and the Prison Guard union owns California. Don’t start a collection for poor civil servants, you will give at the office. And give, and give…