Prison Education as a Tool for Socialization

By Christopher Zoukis

Generally, crime is a violation of generally agreed upon societal norms that have been codified into law via criminalization.  The concept is that society has deemed certain actions to be acceptable and others to be unacceptable, and when someone violates a social norm we expect that they will be chastised.  This chastisement maintains the agreed-upon social order in our nation and throughout the world.  It is meant to be an act of correction to the individual who violated the norm and a warning to the rest of us concerning the action at hand.  Image courtesy


Some forms of chastisement aren’t so bad.  For example, a friend voicing his disagreement, a teacher giving a low grade, a parent grounding their child as a show of disapproval are relatively minor forms.  All of these, while unpleasant, allow the person in question to reflect upon their actions, correct them, and go on with life again.  The person being chastised is not hindered from living their life, though they will benefit via the reminder of their correction.  Hence, in theory, their future behavior should conform to the level, kind, and motivation of the correction, and they will behave as society desires the next time around.  This is a primary goal of chastisement.


Other forms of chastisement are much worse.  Incarceration and capital punishment come to mind; motivational penalties severe enough to lock the person away for a period of time or to actually take his or her life.  These forms of punishment, as with the lesser forms, serve to correct the individual and provide others with proof of the punishment.  They also serve as a cautionary tale and establish a boundary that others must not cross.  The difference, though, is that neither of these methods of correction allows the offender to easily reintegrate back into general society.  Capital punishment is final because death is the end.  The other does not because the offender is labeled a criminal — a “felon” — for the rest of his or her life, sometimes with significant consequences, i.e., the conundrum of felon disenfranchisement laws which employ a variety of limitations on American citizenship and its benefits to former wrongdoers.

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