IV. Legal, Moral, Cultural and
Technical Education of
Criminals

Chinese law stipulates that the reform of criminals through labour should be combined with legal, moral, cultural, and technical education. Since most criminals are young, without much education and legally ignorant, an important part of the work of reform-through-labour is helping the prisoners become better educated and acquire more legal, moral and cultural awareness and working skills. To meet these objectives Chinese reform-through-labour institutions now run special schools, creating a criminal reform system with Chinese characteristics.

Since 1981 the Chinese Government has included education of criminals in its national educational programme. Where conditions permit, prisons and reform-through-labour institutions are required to set up special educational institutions to form a complete educational system for formal and institutionalized legal, moral, cultural, and technical education of prisoners. By the end of 1991, 72.82% of all prisons and reform-through-labour institutions had established such special schools.

The legal and moral education of criminals in reform- through-labour institutions emphasizes the need to plead guilty, abide by the law, improve moral values and better one's outlook on life. The purpose is to help criminals know, abide by, and accept the law and to improve their moral standards.

Legal education for prisoners mainly consists of studying the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, Criminal Law, Law of Criminal Procedure, General Provisions of the Civil Law, and "Code of Civil Law Procedures", etc. This enables them to learn the basic rights and obligations of a citizen, the legal consequences for committing a crime and the basic contents of the criminal law, the criminal justice system and the basic civil laws relating to marriage, family, rights of persons and property rights. On this basis, they should be able to draw a clear distinction between legal and illegal actions or criminal and non-criminal acts and become fully aware of the danger and legal consequences of criminal actions, so that they may admit their guilt, obey the laws and voluntarily accept reform.

Education in morality and outlook on life focuses on issues which are closely related to a prisoner's immediate interests, such as his or her ideals, happiness, conscience, pleasure or sadness, honour or humiliation, future, marriage, family, etc., making them understand proper social morality and sense of value so that a prisoner can clearly distinguish honour from humiliation, civilized from uncivilized behaviour, noble from base actions, and beauty from ugliness. At the same time, individual and specific education is provided to suit individual cases and coordinate with the lessons learned from their criminal activities. This has proven effective in reforming the minds of criminals.

According to statistics, 98.92% of all prisoners in China took part in legal and moral education in 1991. One prisoner in Guizhou named Mei, who took the legal and moral education seriously, overcame his bad habits during imprisonment. Since completing his sentence he has been well-behaved and law-abiding. He has prospered through his hard work and won the trust of the masses who elected him as the head of a model village, deputy to the township people's congress and member of the county committee of the political consultative conference.

Elimination of illiteracy and attainment of universal junior secondary education are the main objectives of cultural education in prisons, but criminals with a higher educational level are encouraged to attend correspondence colleges, part-time colleges or TV colleges offered by society.

Chinese reform-through-labour institutions regularly test the educational level of prisoners and prison students are divided into different grades and classes similar to the teaching programme in schools in society at large. Prisoners whose educational level is below the junior secondary school level are generally required to attend classes.

The overall director of a prison or reform-through-labour institution also serves as the principal of the institution's special school. The school also has a dean and teachers' office plus a teaching programme and curriculum prepared each school term and year. Prisoners study about two hours a day or 12 hours a week. Teaching staff are especially selected for the school and some are chosen from among prisoners with a higher educational level. Prisoners who have attended classes and passed the tests given by the local educational department will be given educational certificates equivalent to those issued by educational institutions in the society at large.

According to statistics, at the end of 1991, there were over 12,000 classes of various kinds being offered at China's prisons and reform-through-labour institutions. Over 518,000 prisoners attended the classes and the 92.35% of those eligible to attend were admitted. There were 5,300 prisoners studying through classes offered in publications, correspondence colleges, part-time colleges, and TV colleges and 4,000 who took higher education examinations for self-study students. Over the last six years, prisoners have been awarded a total of 902,000 certificates or diplomas of various kinds. A three-year regular educational programme which has been instituted for prisoners in the Third Prison of Shandong Province has brought the illiteracy rate there down from 17.6% to 1.3%. In addition, the number of prisoners with less than a primary school education has dropped from 65% to 5.3% and the number of those who have a junior secondary education or above has increased substantially. Revidivism has dropped to 1.9%. There was once a youth from the city of Shenyang who was sentenced to reform-through-labour because of his involvement in a gang theft. While serving his sentence, he conscientiously accepted reform and actively participated in the classes organized by the reform-through-labour institution. After he was released from prison he passed his college entrance examination and later was even admitted as a postgraduate at Harbin Industrial University, where he obtained an MA degree.

Vocational education is a major part of the education programme for criminals in China. According to statistics, over 561,000 criminals took part in training courses for various skills in 1991, representing 83.18% of the total number of prisoners who were eligible. A total of 546,000 certificates for various levels of technical proficiency were issued to prisoners by the labour departments in society as a result of testing.

To augment vocational training for prisoners, prisons and reform-through-labour institutions feature vocational teaching and research facilities, classrooms, laboratories and experimental plots set up by agricultural work units. Vocational teaching materials and various forms of reference material are provided free for the prisoners. Teachers are generally selected from among engineers, technicians and agricultural experts within the reform-through-labour institutions supplemented by technicians and teachers from schools or other institutions in society. Taking into account the social needs of prisoners who have been released plus the fact that they go in different directions, short, practical and immediately useful programmes are the main focus of vocational and technical training. Through courses which teach subjects such as home appliance repair, tailoring and sewing, cooking, hair-dressing, home poultry raising, carpentry, bricklaying, electricity and agricultural implement repair, prisoners acquire one or more skills during their imprisonment, in preparation for finding employment after their release. A study of 720 former prisoners with technical skills conducted by a reform-through-labour institution in Jinan, Shandong Province revealed that 96% found employment soon after returning to society. Some returned to their original work units and some were employed as key technical personnel inordinary enterprises. Still others set up household businesses, construction operations or other service industries, becoming individual business operators who behave themselves and abide by the law. A reform-through-labour institution in Lingyuan, Liaoning Province made a study 124 former inmates who had acquired technical proficiency certificates in prison. All of them had jobs and none had committed new crimes.

The systematic legal, moral, cultural and technical education of criminals is intended to make prisons and reform- through-labour institutions like special schools for educating and reforming criminals. This represents an important improvement in reform-through-labour work in the country as well as a development in the construction of a socialist legal system in China. Experience has shown that it is an effective way to improve our work in reforming criminals and promotes a good social order. This policy has generated a systematic legal system with Chinese characteristics.