In Bolivia, prisoners can reduce their prison term by reading books

Prisoners in Bolivia have been given a new way to reduce their prison time. They can gain freedom earlier by reading books.

The government program is called “the books behind bars”. It offers inmates a chance to get out of jail days or weeks before their release date. The program is inspired by a similar effort in Brazil. The goal is to improve reading ability. It is also about giving hope to inmates who face the slowness of the Bolivian judicial process.

The program has been launched in 47 prisons that have no money to pay for education or social assistance programs for inmates.

So far, 865 inmates are participating in the program. One of them is Jaqueline. She has already read eight books in one year and passed four reading tests.

“It’s really difficult for people like us who don’t have Income and who don’t have family outside,” said Jaqueline. “There are people here, for example, who are barely learning to read and write.

Jaqueline and a fellow inmate <a class=read a book in prison where they have access to a small library as part of a program that aims to spread literacy and offer the possibility of leaving prison earlier, in La Paz, Bolivia, April 29, 2022. ( REUTERS/Claudia Morales)” src=”https://gdb.voanews.com/031a0000-0aff-0242-ad23-08da2f5a9f9b_w250_r0_s.jpg”/>

Jaqueline and a fellow inmate read a book in prison where they have access to a small library as part of a program that aims to spread literacy and offer the possibility of leaving prison earlier, in La Paz, Bolivia, April 29, 2022. ( REUTERS/Claudia Morales)

Nadia Cruz is with Bolivia Mediator Office. She said the goal was to to encourage detainees awaiting the start of the trial.

The group Human Rights Watch says the country’s prisons and jails are overcrowded and unsanitary. Some detainees protested the lack of health care.

With these difficulties, learning to read can be like escaping prison walls, at least for the mind. This is the case of Mildred, detained in the women’s prison of Obrajes in the capital La Paz.

“When I read, I’m in touch with the whole universe,” Mildred said. “Walls and bars disappear.”

I am Ashley Thompson.

The Reuters news agency reported this story. Ashley Thompson adapted it for VOA Learning English.

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words in this story

detained -not. a person detained in a prison or a psychiatric hospital

Income -not. money earned through work, investments or business

mediator -not. a person (such as a government official or employee) who investigates reported issues and tries to deal with issues fairly

to encourage -v. to make (someone) more determined, hopeful or sure of what they are doing

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