I heard a rumour the other day that prisons were going to receive twenty million rands’ worth of books for the entertainment and edification of their incarcerated tenants. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for the training and upliftment of prisoners so that, wherever possible, they can be reintegrated into society as useful citizens. Exactly what kind of reading materials would be provided was not discussed. One can but hope that the Dummies Guide to Armed Robbery or The Ultimate Book of Prison Escapes weren’t on the list! What did perturb me, however, was the observation that some schools in the country were still without their textbooks. My first thought was that perhaps the delivery of school texts had been sent to the prisons in error. I mean, sometimes it’s difficult to distinguish between school and jails when it comes to inmate behaviour. Criminality rears its ugly head everywhere these days, alas. While acknowledging that anything is possible, I couldn’t convince myself that such a gaffe was feasible. But then, on reflection, I realised that the whole process actually constitutes an extraordinarily sophisticated policy on the government’s part, a policy designed to save expenditure on two lots of books thus making one lot of money available for the government’s primary business: corruption. The intricate thinking and planning behind the process appears to work like this: Books meant for schools are deliberately diverted to the prisons instead so that school-goers can’t have access to them. Without textbooks, learners will, slowly but surely, abandon their schooling and start becoming urban entrepreneurs by resorting to ever-increasing levels of criminal behaviour until the ponderous processes of the law eventually apprehend them. If these sad reprobates aren’t released on bail of R50.00 after being arrested for multiple killings, and if the police dockets aren’t quietly whisked away for a small fee during the investigation, then they might be sentenced to a period of incarceration. Once securely locked up, they will then be able to take full advantage of reading the textbooks they should have studied at school! Just how smart is that, hey?