“Something strange” is happening at the Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center in Virginia, reports the Washington Post. Russian literature is being explored as a recidivism remedy for juvenile criminals. Residents of the center are so eager to get into a Russian literature class led by the University of Virginia that prison officials use it as a reward. The youths are clamoring to read weighty books such as “War and Peace” even after the class is over.
The idea of bringing Tolstoy to juvenile offenders is flat ridiculous to some, who think they need a tough wake-up call and practical job skills, not what they consider literary fluff. But the commonwealth spends nearly $80 million a year on juvenile correctional centers, and in recent years more than a third of the people released from those centers were convicted of another crime within a year. No one's predicting a miracle cure for recidivism, a national problem. But there's no cost to the Department of Juvenile Justice for the class. And staff members at Beaumont see a marked change in students' behavior and goals with the class, said the principal of the high school there. Some have gone on to college.