Inmates serving life sentences at a Pennsylvania prison have adopted a unique tactic to promote a program of personal change for fellow convicts and help end a culture of crime that boosts the U.S. prison population, reports Reuters. The program, which goes beyond traditional rehabilitation regimes to “transform” offenders, was presented by the convicts themselves at the maximum-security Graterford prison outside Philadelphia to academics attending the World Congress of Criminology, held this week at the University of Pennsylvania.
Academics hailed the meeting as a unique event in criminology and said the prisoners’ program offered a fresh chance to end the cycle of crime that helps fill America’s overflowing prisons. “Never before have distinguished academics agreed to spend the day in prison discussing the causes of crime with inmates,” said one participant. Some 70 inmates in brown prison uniforms welcomed some 150 delegates to the prison. The prisoners’ group has met each Saturday night at Graterford for about the last two years to conduct its “transformation” program with other inmates who have at least the prospect of release. Inmates are urged to renounce street codes such as revenge, violence and materialism and replace them with what the lifers see as more genuine traits of manhood such as honesty, restraint and responsibility.