Mike Tyson
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Literature can make prisoners 'better people'

In his new autobiography, former world champion boxer Mike Tyson has revealed that during his time in prison he chose to read books by Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Alexandre Dumas.

Speaking on the Today programme, Erwin James, Guardian columnist and a former prisoner, said that literature "can be a hugely beneficial mechanism to get people to think about their own motivations, their own place in society".

He added: "If they need education, give them education. Give them the opportunities to become better people."

Mr James said he was thankful that Tyson had brought this issue "into the public consciousness".

Author Pat Winslow explained that when she was working as a writer in prison, literature gave the opportunity for inmates to discuss "a moral compass of a character".

"We're looking at their own life histories when they were writing their own poetry," she added.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday 8 November 2013.