Prisoners in Bolivia are now able to reduce their jail time by reading books in a new program that aims to spread literacy and give hope despite a notoriously slow judicial process.
The government program is called “books behind bars.” It offers detainees a chance to get out of jail days or weeks ahead of their release date. The program is modelled after a similar effort in Brazil. The aim is to improve reading ability. It is also meant to give hope to inmates who face Bolivia’s slow judicial process.
The program has been launched in 47 prisons that do not have money to pay for education or social assistance programs for prisoners.
So far, 865 inmates are taking part in the program. One of them is Jaqueline said she has already read eight books in a year and has passed four reading tests.
“It is really hard for people like us who have no income and who do not have family outside,” Jaqueline said. “There are people here, for example, who are just learning how to read and write.”
Nadia Cruz is with Bolivia’s Ombudsman’s office. She said the aim is to encourage inmates waiting for the trial process to begin.
Human Rights Watch says the country’s prisons and jails are overcrowded and unhealthy. Some detainees have protested over the lack of health care.
With these difficulties, learning to read can be like escaping the prison walls, at least for the mind. That is the case for Mildred, an inmate at the Obrajes women’s prison in capital of La Paz.
“When I read, I am in contact with the whole universe,” Mildred said. “The walls and bars disappear.”