Brazilian Prisoners Read Their Way to Freedom

Brazil’s “Redemption through Reading” program has announced that it will offer to reduce prison sentences for inmates in high security prisons by four days (up to a maximum of 48 days per year) for each book they read.  They will also need to submit a well written book report proving their comprehension.

The program is an effort to reduce recidivism through education and provide incarcerated men and women with a different worldview.  Brazil will test out the program’s efficiency with criminals from four high-security prisons.  They will have 4 weeks to read each book and write a book report.

So far there is no approved book list or detailed requirements.  I can’t imagine The Anarchist Cookbook or Prison Escape would be appropriate reading material.

Sao Paulo lawyer Andre Kehdi stated that:

“A person can leave prison more enlightened and with an enlarged vision of the world.”

Many people in favor of the program argue that studies all over the world regarding prisons suggest that

“long periods of isolation with little mental stimulus contributed to poor mental health and led to intense feelings of anger, frustration, and anxiety.”

Hopefully reading and writing can provide adequate mental stimulus to ensure prisoners never return. However, reading and writing aren’t the only approach being tried on inmates to reduce recidivism. In America we’re trying some new techniques too. From puppies to entrepreneurship, recidivism is being tackled head on.



The Globe and Mail: Brazilian Inmates Offered Reduced Sentences for Reading Books

Huffington Post: Prison Programs Take Innovative Approach To Reducing Recidivism

Free Birth Control Creates Dramatic Decrease in Abortion and Unplanned Pregnancy


Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that abortion and unplanned pregnancy rates dramatically plummet when birth control is provided for free.  While this may not be surprising, what is surprising are the numbers.  By providing free birth control to 9,256 women and adolescents between the ages of 14- 45 in the St. Louis area between 2007 and 2011, researchers found that there was a 62% – 78% decrease in abortion and unplanned pregnancy.

Jeff Peipert, MD, PhD, and Robert J. Terry Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology stated that:

The impact of providing no-cost birth control was far greater than we expected in terms of unintended pregnancies.  We think improving access to birth control, particularly IUDs and implants, coupled with education on the most effective methods has the potential to significantly decrease the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions in this country.

Unplanned pregnancies account for 50% of all U.S. pregnancies, which is higher than most other developed countries.  Roughly half of these pregnancies are the result of women not using contraception and the other half from incorrect use.

IUDs and implants are a great option, providing superior protection and remaining effective for 3 – 10 years depending on the type.  Unfortunately they are very expensive upfront, costing in many instances over $800 and not being covered by insurance.

The researchers remind us that:

Unintended pregnancy remains a major health problem in the United States, with higher proportions among teenagers and women with less education and lower economic status.  The results of this study demonstrate that we can reduce the rate of unintended pregnancy and this is key to reducing abortions in this country.

I understand that people don’t want to pay for the contraception of others through taxes, but paying for other people’s children through welfare, food stamps, and other methods costs far, far more.  I am still undecided on the issue of whether some form of safe and effective contraception should be completely free.  What do you think?



Fooling People into Passionate Belief

What you believe in may not be as strong of a belief as you might have thought. Researchers have found that people can be tricked into believing the opposite of what they claim to believe  and will even create well supported arguments in opposition of their initial beliefs.

People were asked to answer questions regarding their opinion on moral issues using a clipboard with two sheets of paper.  The first sheet of paper secretly contained two statements glued on top of each other.  When the unsuspected victim of adhesive magic flipped the page to fill out the second sheet, a strong adhesive on the back of the clipboard removed the first statement, revealing a second, identical looking statement holding the opposite stance.

After flipping the page back over they were asked to read the statements aloud and discuss why they answered the way they did.  Reserachers found that:

“About half of the participants did not detect the changes, and 69% accepted at least one of the altered statements. People were even willing to argue in favour of the reversed statements: A full 53% of participants argued unequivocally for the opposite of their original attitude in at least one of the manipulated statements”

More than half the people changed their mind and even argued for the opposite stance they had just completely disagreed with moments before.

Researchers state that this shows how inaccurate questionnaires actually are. It also reveals how incredibly complex our opinions and beliefs actually are, and how easily we can be swayed one way or another.

The conclusion this study brought me to personally is that 53% of people have absolutely no clue what they are talking about when they tell you their opinion.  But we all knew that, didn’t we?