There are more than 50,000 juvenile inmates, the Department of Education reports. They are disproportionately black and male.
Many attribute that to the “school-to-prison pipeline, in which overly harsh discipline practices help push students out of school and into the juvenile justice system,” writes Klein.
Ex-cons who’ve made it to Berkeley and other universities want to help build the prison-to-college pipeline, reports Larissa MacFarquhar in a fascinating New Yorker story.
She profiles criminal go-getters who had lots of time to read in prison.
Steven Czifra, the son of alcoholics, was behind bars from the age of 16 to 30.
The one good thing about solitary in Y.A. (Youth Authority) was a big box there containing hundreds of books. He read until all that was left was a volume of Shakespeare, with four plays in it. At first, he found the language nearly impossible to understand, but he had nothing else to do, so he kept at it. He gradually realized that it was better than anything he’d read before, and he looked for more. He decided that his favorite play was “Richard II,” because of the way it forced you to confront a disagreeable man-child who ruined his life and killed people, and yet, by the end, made you feel compassion for him. When he finished with the Shakespeare, he wrote to a librarian, who sent him ancient-Greek literature in translation. He read Milton and Wordsworth and Dickens.
After his release, went to community college on a federal Pell Grant, then transferred to Berkeley, where he co-founded Underground Scholars with ex-con Danny Murillo, who also discovered reading in juvenile detention. Both earned their UC degrees in 2015 and now work to turn former inmates into successful students.