J.K. Rowling Presents Literacy Awards to Prison Inmates

98

Mar 28, 2008

Posted by SueTLC
Uncategorized

J.K. Rowling recently presented reading awards to inmates at a prison in Edinburgh, Scotland. ITN is reporting today that Jo presented these awards on behalf of the Shannon Trust charity, which according to their website is “devoted to the development of literacy in our prisons through peer to peer mentoring. The charity encourages and helps prisons to develop teams of inmates, who run daily one-on-one lessons for illiterate fellow prisoners.”

After presenting these awards, the Harry Potter author was quoted as saying: “It was a very positive experience. Learning to read represents a significant turning point in anyone’s life, and may be the one thing that makes a difference to help people in prison turn their lives around.” David Ahern from the trust said: “We were delighted that JK Rowling was able to visit. She gave the prisoners a real boost.”





48 Responses to J.K. Rowling Presents Literacy Awards to Prison Inmates

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Rock on Jo! What an amazing woman. I hope I will have children one day and that they will admire her as much as I do. She is the perfect role model for me.

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ooooooooooh, now she is talking to a couple of criminals…

whom she should not be talking to.

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j.k. rowling has one more time stood up and shown us how a real person of good character should wield their personal power and influence.its time for all her fans to do the same ,imagine the change for the better if we all did the same

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I know that prison is about reforming rather than punishment but I feel uneasy about all this. Why is there a charity for prisons when it is a government responsibility to fund it from our own taxes? What I feel most uneasy about is the fact that some criminals have no consience and regret about what they have done. Yet we help them. I have been mugged and beaten by a gang on a bus. I would find it very very very difficult to try and help them. Much less the murderers. I dont want to hate them but I cant help it. I just cant. I hate to see Jo helping them although deep down I know its the righteous thing to do (very Christian) to help reform criminals. I cant help felling that they do not deserve it. True, some of them may be the innocent Sirius Blacks or Hagrids. Some may have comit their crime out of desperation or as a way out. But society comes first and they need protection and (this is where my moral may be most questionable) a fear of knowing that prison is HELL and it is there as PUNISHMENT. Oh dear, maybe I should follow the Harry Potter and Yoda school of teaching to releasing my resentment and hate towards those who commit horrendous crimes.

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I don’t think society should come first, I think people should come first… every person deserves a second chance to make something good of their life. If people come out of prison more bitter and resentful than they were before, chances are they’ll go the wrong way again. So it’s in everyones interest to try to help them do better. It might be difficult to earn a living if you can’t read and write. I’m just grateful that I can, and that I have so many opportunities to make something of myself, and also to have fun reading Harry Potter! Maybe if you look at it like that you’ll be a little less resentful?

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What can I say? there’s no enough words for Jo.

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i agree with matea

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Professor Potter, I’m sorry for your experience. I am often conflicted about our penal system.

As far as this news item, though, I look at it this way: learning to read can only be a good thing.

Hugs.

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The woman never ceases to amaze me with her generousity, humility and humanity.

Thank you Jo for being such as marvelous example of the positive influence that people can be. May we all strive to be a benevolent!

She is incredible because even with all the vile things that people are doing and saying (SVA & his toadys) against her … She goes merrily on and conducting herself in a most honourable and admirable way.

Jo is an honourable Lady to be sure!

BTW – Has the Queen granted her “Lady” or “Dame” as an official status title yet? I think she has earned that honour for sure! :-)

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OOPS! Sorry for the double post! Not sure how that happened

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I agree with Luna Longbottom. Hey as Sirius said in the movie there is light and dark in all of us. Everyone deserves the chance to right their wrongs

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Prison is a horrible place and the idea that it is there to for the sake of reformation and redemption is laughable, this is a worthy charity but it isn’t the most worthy in my opinion. However, what Jo does with her resources have nothing to do with my opinion. If only Jo wasn’t such an oddity in this respect. Granted many celebrities give thousands of pounds to charity, but how often is it for the sake of giving to charity and how often is it for the sake of increasing there own popularity? I’ve heard of Jo’s house being featured on Cribs and its modesty stood out in a way that would put the other featured celebrities to shame.

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Ok. Three comments, here: First, to ‘Nezziekiki: Why, on earth, shouldn’t she talk to inmates….they are, after all, in a “secure environment” [I hope] Second to ‘Tim’....while it does seem “reformation and redemption is laughable”, sitll it is worth a try. On BOTH sides of “the pond”. While I do agree, that, it doesn’t always work. Then, on to something I may have misunderstood you to say: ”...how often is it for the sake of incresing their own popularity?’ I would hope, given this lady’s unswerving charitable works…FOR THE SAKE OF THE CHARITY, that you were not referring to Ms Rowling….If I am in error, please forgive me. But there have been a number of “Jo is only trying to [get more money, get more attention, etc”] comments here. This lady deserves great respect and admiration for this lady…!

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Up to a third of Britain’s prison population cannot read or write, many more have reading difficulties. It is one of the reasons for high levels of reoffending hence JKR’s interest in it. If you can read and write the chances increase of your staying out of trouble. see http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2005/jun/21/prisonsandprobation.society

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To Professor Potter! :)

Just keep in mind that most of these people are not going to stay there forever…. By making prison hell you are only feeding the bad! By trying to help them, anyone who does so, is helping to protect us.

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I think it was an admirable thing for Jo to do. As for how the prisoners are treated, thankfully we have moved past the days of throwing someone in a cell and forgetting they are there. The point is that they pay for their crime (no, it doesn’t make it any easier for the victim), and that one day, when they are released, they will be able to be a responsible, productive member of society.

Without being able to read, that chance of doing something positive once they are out of prison is severely lessened. One third of the prisoners not being able to read sounds like an extremely high illiteracy rate, so trying to do something about it is essential to turning their lives around. The other part of that program is that it is peer to peer, which also has a positive benefit for the one who is teaching someone to read. It’s a win win situation; one prisoner learns to read, while the other learns to help someone else.

Pat

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True prision is for punishment, and some in jail have no conscience of their crimes. Yet prision can in ways be a vicious circle. By the treatment they recieve in jail and outside, can lead them to re-offend.

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Carol, Mountain Violet, Luna, your comments are invaluable and I commend the optimistic views. I will try to be more optimistic about reform as opposed to punishment, though it is still difficult to shake off the hate I have for some of these criminals who have ruined the lives of families and scarred individuals. Oh there I go again..stop me!

Harry Potter represents forgiveness and opportunity for redemption. It is up to the criminals to make that choice just as Harry had given Voldermont. I think what Jo is doing here reflects that and kudos to her for that. She is wonderful as always. She chooses which charities she wants to support and that is her absolute right. I just wish it didnt include this one but thats me being selfish ;)

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Professor Potter, no one knows what you feel, and I certainly wouldn’t be arrogant enough to try to “change your mind”, if such a thing is even possible.

In my job I (not often, but regularly) deal with inmates, and I have to say that the majority of them seem to me to be weasels. (No offense to weasels; perhaps I should say creeps, or losers.)

However, if even one illiterate inmate learned how to read, read books in prison that touched his or her heart, and made the determination to turn his or her life around, well…I think it would be worth it.

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I would just like to add my appreciation of Jo’s behavior to the list. And yes, Potter, many criminals feel no remorse and their time in prison is beneficial only because it removes them from society. However, many criminals do not want to live the way they have lived – they just don’t know how to live any other way. By offering programs such as these, we can help them to lead more productive lives that keep them from returning to prison. As another has stated, if we can help even one inmate per prison per year, that is one less criminal and many more happy lives (just think of how many people WON’T be hurt by them in the future).

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I think she is an amazing person and an inspiration to others!!!

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Once again she shows the world why so many people adore her. Jo, you’re a gift.

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I hadn’t heard of such a program before I read this. I’m glad they’re trying to instill some positivity into the inmates’ lives. And I really admire Jo-despite the lawsuit with the Lexicon she still manages to conduct herself with grace.

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Programmes like these, can massively help an un-educated prisioner. They struggled in school when they were younger, and with no one willing to help get to the route cause of the problem, it eventually send’s some (not all) into a life of crime, because it’s something that is easy. You just have to ask, what if these people had that little extra attention spent on them at school, whould they have become criminals? It’s certainly something to think about. I’m by no means a liberal when it comes to an issue like crime. But I’m not naive enough to believe that people are born as criminals.

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I am increasingly impressed, if not downright stunned, at the graciousness that seems to know no limit from this woman. The humility and care she shows in treating prisoners in this manner – with respect and the hope for a second chance -exemplifies the themes she espouses in the series. All of us should make an effort to emulate her. All of her social work is worthy of praise and definitely a model for the rest of society.

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My dad works at Edinburgh Prison (he’s the chaplain there), and he got to meet Jo on her tour of the premises. She stayed and chatted to him for a good ten minutes, and talked about faith and how prisoners are able to practice theirs. I found this interesting considering some of the interviews she has given concerning her own faith. The actual event happened a few weeks ago – I was going to e-mail you the story, but I didn’t think you’d be interested.

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There is a pretty fundamental misunderstanding about the definition of charity in this case. A charity in this sense does not mean that those inmates are getting money or anything like that for being a part of this program. Common sense (and moreover, their website) tells us that only ONE person it paid for this, at all. Another thing that shoes that “charity” in your (plural) interpretation is misguided is because the program is staffed through “peer to peer mentoring”... for it to be titled a mentoring program, it must be FREE and on a VOLUNTEER basis. The title “charity” is almost definitely applied because it pays for the RESOURCES (a.k.a. books, tests etc) which otherwise would be unavailable for these participants. Considering a large portion of criminal populations are illiterate, it is OBVIOUSLY a smart move to focus on literacy and learning programs in prisons. In fact, prison education systems are one of the only truly successful plans for reform, statistically speaking. I’m so pleased that Jo took the time to do this, once again proving that she doesn’t think she is too good to help anyone. :)

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Jo never cieases to amaze me…. it seems all that she does is work for charity and think of others before herself. She is truly an amazing role model for everyone to follow. I understand how some people feel about the situation. It does not seem right to some people to help those who have hurt families and scared the public. But in the Harry Potter novels and movies you see and read about characters that help

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Yes there is light and dark in all of us, but it also depends on which part we act on.

I am also on the fence about this, but given the opportunity, i probobily (sp) would help them. I’d feel guilty if i didn’t.

But as always Jo Rox!

Live, Love, Harry Potter!!

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I work with at-risk youth and I am often around the prison system. It is a very mucked-up system, which often feeds negative behaviors and increases crime.

Yet those who I know who have made change, have done so through two things: education and faith. Reading is essential to both.

Learning to read is not a reward for criminals: it is a glimmer of hope. What chance does anyone have to increase their station in life, without the ability to read?

Where can one escape the depression and humiliation of being a prisoner, without books?

JK, as always, is tapped into some fundamental principals of social justice: that all people have the right to reconcile their past, pursue happiness, and be educated. Don’t forget, she used to work for Amnesty International! (Bless her!)

To the nay-sayers: please examine the condition of your heart, and your levels of compassion, forgiveness, and true justice (not vengence), before you condemn others.

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I guess it depends on the crime committed by the people that are in prison.

If they are rapists and murderers, I disagree with this. If they are petty theives and what not that earnestly want to change, I’m all for it.

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Hurting people hurt people. If all you have ever known is rage and pain and hurt, then usually that is all you have to offer the world.

Once upon a time, I thought everyone is prison deserved to be there. That they had received the punishment that they deserved. Now, I realize that everything is not so black and white – that there are numerous shades of gray.

Every time an individual is treated without the basic human dignity required for a healthy mental outlook we all fall further from the mark. It’s a reoccurring cycle that will only continue to spiral out of control, unless someone (I – you – we) is(are) willing to stop the cycle of hatred and bigotry.

It has to start somewhere…

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Professor Potter: “What I feel most uneasy about is the fact that some criminals have no consience and regret about what they have done. Yet we help them. I have been mugged and beaten by a gang on a bus. I would find it very very very difficult to try and help them. Much less the murderers. I dont want to hate them but I cant help it. I just cant. I hate to see Jo helping them although deep down I know its the righteous thing to do (very Christian) to help reform criminals. I cant help felling that they do not deserve it.”

I too have been mugged before. And I have already forgiven the perpetrators. I forgave them the very next day. Yeah, it was a frighetening experience. I’m still very disappointed at what they did. But you know, they’re still people, with the potential to change. It’s easy to write off criminals and say they can never be rehabilitated, but all people can change no matter what they’ve done and it is up to us to be willing to forgive.

I’m not saying we should let rapists and murderers out of prison tomorrow. But we should allow them to earn back our trust over time if they really have changed their ways. If society goes on hating criminals, they will go on hating society and nothing will ever change. Certainly we should hate the crime, and condemn it. But we should not hate the person.

I applaud Jo for doing something we should all be doing a bit more of, and that is showing charity to criminals, letting them know that some part of society wants them to turn their lives around and has not forgotten them.

I don’t believe in an unpardonable crime (or “sin”). Every person has the potential to change their behaviour, and every criminal deserves our forgiveness. Incidentally, I am 100% opposed to the death penalty, anywhere and for any reason.

Anyway, that’s just my two cents.

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Let’s look at this from a ‘Harry Potter’ point of view: “We are not all divided into good people and death eaters” There are always going to be ‘Voldemorts’ and ‘Snapes’...one has absolutely no conscience or remorse, The other has done wrong, and seeks some kind of “redemption”. I agree that, given the circumstances, if they don’t know how to read they will always have difficulty on the “outside”. Back to the “original topic”, Ms Rowling is actually using the points, the books make, to help others….no matter how you look at it, if JKR has taught us anything, it’s that everyone [even the Voldemorts of this world] deserves a chance. JMHO

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I have pity and compassion for you, Professor Potter. Forgiveness is the gift you give yourself. Don’t turn into Professor Snape, and don’t ever question or denigrate others for showing the grace you lack.

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Luna Longbottom is exactly right!

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Compassion is one of the greatest gifts we have to give as human beings. I’m glad that Jo and the majority of posters here see that, too. :)

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Compassion is one of the greatest gifts we have to give as human beings. I’m glad that Jo and the majority of posters here see that as well. :)

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I never thought this would cause so much of a stir among potter fans! Here’s my take on this: This makes me think alot about ‘Freedom Writers’. If you don’t know what I’m talking about here’s the short version. In the 90’s, a first-time teacher Erin Gruwell had a class full of kids who didn’t care about school and some were in a gang ect. She gave them books like Anne Frank to read, and they opened up to her and changed their lives around. For more on this story go to: www.freedomwritersfoundation.org Anyway I agree with the quote from Mountain Violet: “However, if even one illiterate inmate learned how to read, read books in prison that touched his or her heart, and made the determination to turn his or her life around, well…I think it would be worth it.” I think this is true. Unfortuatly, we can only pray and hope that these people change their lives. But’s it’s wonderful to see JK Rowling doing this!! I only hope her efforts in the end help a bit.

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Criticism and harsh treatment never helped or inspired anyone to change. It just perpetuates the problem. Prison often makes inmates worse than when they went in. The answer is love, Jo tells us in these books. And one form of love is education. I think inmates would benefit from reading Harry Potter, as would everyone else.

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I can’t believe some people have a problem with Jo encouraging reading!!!

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I’m really sorry about your experience Professor Potter. Crime is a terrible thing,but forgiveness is great. Most crimes are committed by people who are uneducated, who don’t know the difference between what is really right and wrong. The world has too much grey, rather than just black and white, and it’s what makes us all human. But crime isn’t something most people do for the fun of it. It’s usually done because the perpetrator has been driven by utter desperation, or else because he doesn’t know love, or has never known love. I can completely understand how you feel. My friend had a similar experience some years back, and she still feels criminals need to be punished, not forgiven, so I know what you must be feeling.

Coming to Jo, well, what do I say. I have no words for the humility and grace this lady has. She is the only person I consider to be a role model for me, and I’m not someone who really has any “ideal” as such, but Jo, well, she really truly is amazing. Despite all the problems surrounding her at present, she still goes forward and does charity, which she believes is important, and which is close to her heart. Love you Jo!!

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looks like JKR is well informed about the classic Christian virtues, not only are the Horcruxes very close parallels to the 7 cardinal sins, she also practice the 7 Works of Charity. 1) feeding the hungry 2) clothing the naked. 3) giving water to the thirsty 4) buring the dead 5) visiting the prisoners 6) nursing the sick 7)harbouring the strangers.

this is the 5th Work of Charity, her sponsering the MS funds is the 6th.

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Kamion, I know most of the works of charity as the corporal works of mercy, except for the “visiting the prisoners”, I know as “to ransom the captive”; . But, since the original works of St. Thomas Aquinas are subject to translation and interpretation, I will not say you are incorrect. She also has encompassed at least one of the spiritual works of mercy/charity.

spiritual works of mercy To instruct the ignorant; To counsel the doubtful; To admonish sinners; To bear wrongs patiently; (if this doesn’t cover dealing w/RDR &SVA I don’t know what does) To forgive offences willingly; To comfort the afflicted; To pray for the living and the dead.

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Nylorac, it could be there is difference in translating in the English or the Dutch…but Matteus 25, speaks of For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. (King James Bible) There it’s where I got it from

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Kamion, as I said, you are not wrong, neither am I.

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Professor Potter I’m very much inclined to agree with you. Although I respect everyone’s opinion in this thread, and yes I realize that there are those prison inmates who have not committed brutal acts of violence, I have to say that most criminals don’t act out of desperation (a la Les Miserables) or due to lack of love. These people resort to crime because it’s more lucrative for them to break the law than abide by it and earn an honest living.

Rather than waiting until an individual becomes a criminal and is sentenced to prison, why not an attempt to reach the person sooner, preferably while he’s still in school. Each one of those prison inmates was a student at some point in his life. Why didn’t they seek to learn to read while they were in school and a teacher was making an effort to instruct them?

JKR should endeavor to speak to children while they’re still in elementary school and present literacy awards to children who are working hard to learn to read. Rewarding the kids in such a way would serve as a tremendous incentive to those kids to continue to learn and possibly avoid a life of crime altogether.

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Prof Potter I understand your emotions about criminals, you are right some of them have done very bad things, dificult to forgive them.

I myself try to understand what have made them so cruel and inhuman. And I am working since about 20 years to try to help people emotionally to let go of a lot of acumulated experiences, trying to make ” a better world” with less cruelty.

I have been giving workshops in prision too, to help the prisioners contact with themselves and grow in their human potencials.

What bothers me about prisions that only a part of the “bad” people are inside. I have the idea that for one prisioner there are 10 outside who have done the same or worse and go on with the “normal” life without punishments.

I think that Jo is right and curageous to read in a prision. Johnny Cash one of my favorite singers gave some concert in prision too and I had the impresion that he too enyoed it.

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