More than 90 percent of uneducated prisoners in Sichuan province will have to hit the books and become "literate" within two years, according to a circular issued on Wednesday by the provincial prison administrative bureau.
In China, a person is considered literate "if he knows 1,500 Chinese characters, can understand simple stories published in newspapers, do simple math and write simple articles".
"More than 90 percent of the inmates in the province below the age of 45 will receive compulsory education before they are released," the circular said.
Inmates below the age of 50 who have no professional skills must receive vocational education, certified by the local departments of labor and social security.
The move is aimed at making convicts more useful and adaptable to society after they complete their sentences to reduce the chances of them committing crimes again, said Li Xinmin, an official at the bureau.
Many of the convicts have committed crimes due to lack of proper education, he added. The circular has directed all prison libraries to have at least 10 books per inmate on average.
"At least one new book has to be purchased for each inmate. The books should involve law, literature, history, technology, psychology and reference," he said.
Many other provinces, such as Shanxi and Yunnan, which is Sichuan's neighbor in the southwest, have issued similar circulars in a bid to improve educational and professional skills of the inmates, according to the Ministry of Justice.
Source: China Daily