Incarcerated Dive into English Literature

There was a study done in the United States examining recidivism rates of released prisoners. Each participant had completed an educational curriculum of some kind while incarcerated. Some earned diplomas after finishing two-year associate programs designed to provide students with an entry point into lengthier majors. Others signed up for the long haul and attained their four-year Bachelor of Arts and/or Sciences degrees. All the men and women who earned four-year degrees avoided reincarceration during the time period of the study, and all were able to find jobs in their fields. Similarly, only five percent of those who earned associate’s diplomas committed crimes resulting in their return to prison. Bettering oneself with education while serving time clearly has real-world benefits.

I did not expect to receive a cash inheritance from mom. It was an impressive gift from someone who lived a hair’s breadth above the poverty line and I’ll be eternally grateful. She would’ve been proud to know I ended up putting it toward my English Literature degree, completed while incarcerated. Graduating with distinction was a major achievement and I plan on doing my masters, even if that means taking out a loan. Frankly, education in this country should be socialized like health care is, as the data suggests it would greatly reduce the rate of recidivism along with the number of first offenders committing survival crimes. How many uneducated people living in abject poverty end up dealing drugs, burglarizing homes, stealing cars, prostituting themselves, or even just boosting a few steaks from a grocery store in order to put food on the table?

Mom had a grade eight education and was lucky to find steady, minimum wage work as a dry-cleaning technician for most of her life. She respected my decision to put down my guitar and take up a career as a janitor, however, she always hoped I would make it big somehow, and now here I am a university educated, soon-to-be published author. Not a single person in our family tree had a post-secondary education, so I feel like I made her doubly proud by using her inheritance to pay for my educational betterment, which provided me with the skillset to write this memoir. The fact that I earned my degree in prison would not have bothered her, as many of her friends and lovers were ex-cons. In fact, I think she would’ve gone so far as to congratulate me for killing the man I intended to kill, as I truly believed he murdered the underaged missing girl in order to get rid of the evidence. She once told me that after pushing my father’s dead body off of her, in the back of the doughnut shop, she thought seriously about cutting off his rapist penis and stuffing it in his mouth. Instead, she just left him there with his pants around his ankles and that’s how his eldest son found him the next day. Incidentally, the eldest son, Bob Norton, who was, of course, my half brother, took over the business before it went under like a badly built Russian submarine. He’s long dead now, as he was four decades older than me. Good riddance I say. I’m a Campbell not a Norton. I’m my mother’s son.

It’s now been twenty-seven years since mom died. A few months before it happened, during a moment of lucidity, she employed one of her awkward malaprops and said she was ‘bequeefing’ her savings to me. There was a little over seven thousand dollars in her account and I put it all into a guaranteed investment certificate that accrued interest annually until finally I cashed it out in advance of my deep, incarcerated dive into English literature.

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