Professor of English Doran Larson recently discussed the importance and value of prisoner education on To the Point, a Public Radio International-hosted and KCRW-produced program, in a segment titled “Should we let more prisoners take college classes?” The April 24 show featured both Larson and one of his students, Attica inmate John J. Lennon whose op-ed in support of education for prisoners recently appeared in The New York Times.
The nine-minute interview focused on the shift in this country from a public consensus that prison should be about rehabilitation to a vengeance mentality that does not support education for prisoners. At the same time, this popular attitude, Larson pointed out, makes little economic sense. Education has a profound effect on reducing recidivism. In light of the fact that the expense involved in providing the education necessary for a prisoner to earn an associate’s degree is one-fifth that of the expense of housing a prisoner for a year, Larson observed that the “savings are obvious.” Both Larson and Lennon confirmed that prisoners’ desire for education is huge.
Larson has been teaching creative writing workshops at Attica Correctional Facility since 2006. He is the founder of the Attica-Genesee Teaching Project, which began delivering college-credit courses inside Attica in January 2011; and of the Mohawk Consortium College-in-Prison program, which began delivering college-credit courses inside Mohawk Correctional Facility in January 2014.
According to its website, Public Radio International (PRI) is “a global non-profit media company focused on the intersection of journalism and engagement to affect positive change in people’s lives.” KCRW, on its website, defines itself as creating and curating “a unique mix of content centered around music discovery, NPR news, cultural exploration and informed public affairs and is a community service of Santa Monica College.”