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Confucius, Freud Find Place in Chinese Jails
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"Men at birth are naturally good." A group of 30 inmates intone with their teacher one of the most famous verses by Confucius every morning at a northeast China prison.

Beijiao Prison, in Changchun, capital of Jilin Province, has opened a "Confucian classroom" and installed closed circuit televisions to let the ancient sage do the teaching.

The inmates take turns to attend lectures during the day and revise the texts at night. Each has been given a 66-page collection of famous Confucian works including a primer on virtue and the Analects of Confucius and his disciples.

At the end of the course, the inmates will take a written test and an oral contest on Confucianism.

"The study of traditional Chinese culture can help the inmates cultivate virtues and adopt good behavior," says Yang Mingchang, the prison warden.

A Confucian studies expert said the dos and don'ts laid out by the sage, which accord with most Chinese people, are readily accepted by the inmates as a guide to mending their ways.

"I hope more prisons will follow suit," says Gong Ke, president of Jilin provincial association for Confucius studies.

Freudian theories of psychoanalysis also play a role in rehabilitation in many Chinese prisons, where inmates are offered counseling and encouraged to express themselves.

At Dongling Prison in Shenyang, capital of northeast China's Liaoning Province, prisoners are encouraged to talk to the counselors or hit punchbags in a room with padded walls.

After fighting their demons, the exhausted prisoners are allowed to lie down on a king-sized bed in the psychotherapy room and calm down against a backdrop of light music.

Amid nationwide prison reform since 2003, many Chinese jails have moved to extend inmate care by routinely opening up to families and allowing well-behaved prisoners to join their families for the traditional Chinese New Year.

During the 2006 World Cup, a prison in oil rich Daqing city, Heilongjiang Province, postponed lights out at the prisoners' request.

Education also prevails in China's prisons.

In October, more than 800 prisoners in Beijing sat China's biannual university degree-level examinations for self-taught students.

The Beijing prison administration said prisoners who received a university degree could apply for a five-month reduction of their term.

Inmates at Beijing prisons also edit the Beijing Prison Journal, a bi-weekly paper circulated inside the jail.

(Xinhua News Agency December 3, 2006)

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