There was a study done in the United States examining recidivism rates of released prisoners. Each participant had completed an educational curriculum 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 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. Therefore, education has proven benefits for people serving custodial sentences.
I did not expect to receive a cash inheritance from Mom. It was a generous gift from someone who lived a hair’s breadth above the poverty line, and I’m eternally grateful. She would’ve been proud to know I put it toward an English Literature degree completed while incarcerated. Graduating was a major achievement, and I plan on doing my masters, even if it means taking out a loan. Frankly, education in this country should be socialized like health care is, as the data suggests it’d reduce the rate of recidivism along with the number of first-time offenders committing survival crimes. How many undereducated people living in abject poverty end up dealing drugs, burglarizing homes, stealing cars, prostituting themselves, or boosting a few steaks from a grocery store to put food on the table?
Mom had a grade eight education and was lucky to find minimum wage work as a dry-cleaning technician. She respected my decision to put down my guitar and pick up a mop, however, she always hoped I’d 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 degree, so I feel like I made her doubly proud by using her bequeathed money to pay for my scholastic betterment, which provided me with the skillset to write literature, or my approximation thereof.
Earning my degree in prison would not have bothered her, as many of her friends and lovers were ex-cons. Moreover, I know she wouldn’t have reproached me for killing the man I intended to kill, because she would’ve understood how I convinced myself of his guilt. Besides, she could empathize with the desire for vengeance. She once told me that after pushing my father’s dead body off of her, in the backroom of the donut shop, she thought seriously about cutting his genitals off and throwing them into the deep fryer; instead, she resisted the hateful fire of a thousand suns and 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, Bobby Norton, 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 forty years older than me. Good riddance, I say. I’m a Campbell not a Norton. I’m my mother’s son, or at least I try to be.
It’s been a quarter century since Mom died from aspiration pneumonia: the most common cause of death for late-stage dementia patients. A few months prior to her passing, she said her life’s savings had been ‘bequeefed’ to me. There was seven thousand dollars in her account and I put it into a ten-year guaranteed investment certificate that fortuitously matured during the fifth year of my incarceration, at which time it got reinvested into my English literature degree. As Thomas H. Huxley famously said, literature is the greatest of all sources of refined pleasure.