Going Green: Brazil introduces get-out-of-jail initiatives for prisoners

by Isi Esene

Now, the rule in many small town Brazil prisons is: Generate electricity and get out of jail!

Prisoners now have a sure way of shortening their prison sentences because for every 3-8 hour shift a prisoner pedals a bike, they get one day off their sentence, according to BBC News. The energy they create is being used to light street lamps for the public.

Many observers have described the initiative as ‘brilliant and remarkable’. They say it gives the prisoners an opportunity to contribute to the society while serving their sentences.

A writer on TheNextWeb.com was, however, not impressed, he described the initiative as a failure for being tied to reduction of sentences.

“I strongly believe in redemption, as nearly my entire family was imprisoned for engaging in criminal activity in Chicago; however, prisoners should be influenced to do well for their community because it’s the “right” thing to do- not because it will allow them to quickly return to those people whose lives they’ve impacted negatively”.

Brazil’s other initiative, “Redemption Through Reading” proves to be a bit more rewarding to the prisoners and, essentially, the community. The program allows inmates to cut four days off of their sentence, or up to 48 days per year, for each book they read and write a report for upon completion. The reports must be written neatly and must not stray from the topic of the book, according to the law.

Many would agree that that requirement would definitely be a tall order for many prisoners.

Brazil’s prison initiatives are being put forward to ease the problem of overcrowded prisons; a problem which many developing countries, including Nigeria, face.

According to available statistics, Brazil’s prisons are at 167% of capacity, as of December 2011. The prison population has more than doubled since 2001.

Initiatives such as these would go a long way in solving the problem of over-congestion in Nigerian prisons if introduced and carefully implemented.

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