Read the base text, ignoring the gaps, and try to follow the development of the argument. Think about these questions.
1 The first paragraph refers to a TV debate. Who are the participants in the debate? What is the debate about?
2 Which views are those of the participants? the writer of the article?
Prison - revenge or rehabilitation?
One night, I turned on the television and found myself in the middle of an emotional and highly-charged debate. On one side was a father whose teenage son had been murdered. He was outraged that the convicted murderer, also a teenager, had applied for a special grant to pay for college courses.
On the other side was the convict, a person who had murdered a teenage boy for no reason, at least not one that I remember being mentioned. The prisoner did not claim his incarceration was unjust: he actually seemed remorseful.
His points made sense. Indeed, no one was handing him a degree. He had to study and prove his academic fitness. He had no money: without the grant he was applying for, there would be no courses. And the actual amount was hardly dramatic. It could be called a modest investment for the future.
Makes you sit up and think. Except that, as with all passionate speeches, this argument was more than a bit exaggerated. The number of prisoners who receive the grants represents a very small percentage, less than one-half of one per cent of the total. Those who complete their college education and those who go on to graduate programs — also with a government grant — have a zero recidivism rate, I am told. If true, and I have no information to prove otherwise, that's significant. But dispassionate logic wins few inflamed arguments.
Why should some rapist get a degree in psychology? Why should some drug-using armed robber get a law degree? The truth is, many people do not
believe that convicted felons should receive three meals a day, the opportunity to exercise or the right
to watch TV. For a while, the stories about people who, immediately after they were released from jail, lost no time committing another crime — mugging, break-ins, car theft — were oddly amusing. Now they are simply scary.
Something has to change. Since it is not possible to imprison every miscreant for life, the logical alternative is to stop warehousing prisoners and teach them to do something of value — a trade, a profession, an appreciation of art and music, a new way of life.
We cannot have it both ways. The best way to control crime is to eliminate criminals, and one way to do that is by helping people to become productive, thoughtful members of society. Grants for prisoners to study may not be a popular approach, but it is a successful one.
3. a. Read the base text and the paragraphs that have been removed and try to decide where they fit. Look for reference words, link words and any other lexical items in the base text that point to a missing section. Clues in the first two paragraphs have been italicised to help you.
b. Check your answers by reading the whole article in sequence. Does it make sense?
Now enters a new voice, a politician who is furious. "Do you know how many boys and girls will be unable to attend college because their families haven't got the money to send them, but who don't qualify as poor enough to get such a grant? They will lose out and prisoners will take their place," he warned.
Everyone will sympathise with this reaction from a bereaved parent, but this is hardly a sound basis for a change in a long-established and proven policy. The current prison population is aware of society's conflicting attitude to the way they are treated, but recognises the potential dangers of leaving prison with no up-to-date job skills.
It was, he said, a travesty of justice. His son lost out on college and on life, yet his taxes were going to make possible a college education for his son's killer. It was impossible not to empathize with him. Where was the fairness, the justice?
Prisons are hot topics these days. People are understandably resentful when confronted with what is claimed to be a luxury holiday camp for felons. Penal institutions shouldn't be luxurious. On the other hand, correctional institutions shouldn't be medieval dungeons. There can be a middle ground. The dilemma in finding it is that we can't quite get past the desire for revenge. We want people to be punished, then reformed. Mostly, though, we want them to suffer for making others suffer.
Nothing will ever ease the pain left by a murdered child or a slain parent. And some future success for a felon, made possible through a tax-supported scholarship in prison, will be difficult to swallow, i But it is necessary for society's survival. We talk about the need for people to repay their debt to society, then we object to giving them the means to do so.
If he could do it over again, he said, he would give up his life instead. The reality was that he couldn't exchange places, and that at some point he will complete his prison term. If he doesn't use his time in prison to educate himself, he said, how will he ever be able to be a contributing member of society?
a. Briefly note down the arguments presented in the article:
Ø in favour of harsh treatment of criminals in prison.
Ø in favour of providing prisoners with education and training.
What view of punishment is behind the different approaches?
b. Has your opinion about prisons and punishment changed after reading the article?