Brazil Inmates Get Chance to Read Their Way to Freedom

A new program will lighten sentences by up to 48 days a year for prisoners who agree to hit the books.

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Some of Brazil’s most hardened convicts now have a choice when it comes to finding ways to reduce their sentences: literature, philosophy, science or the classics.

In a plan to ease prison overcrowding announced by the Brazilian government on Monday, inmates at four federal prisons around the country will be offered the chance to dust off their copy of Crime and Punishment to try and read their way to freedom.

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Inmates will be offered the chance to read up to twelve works of literature per year in exchange for four days off their sentence for every book read — lightening their sentences by a total of up to 48 days per year.

There is one catch: inmates must produce a passable essay on each book, one that makes “correct use of paragraphs, be free of corrections, use margins and legible joined-up writing,” according to the notice published in the country’s official gazette.

Not all prisoners will be able to take part in the novel scheme: a special panel will determine who does and doesn’t get to “read for redemption.” But Lawyer Andre Kehdi, who heads a book donation project for prisoners, feels that anyone who gets this opportunity isn’t just getting a lighter sentence. “A person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world,” he said to Reuters in support of the book program. “Without doubt they will leave a better person.”

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