I just read about a highly intriguing concept: good manners on death row. The Time article was looking at research which showed that Southerners on death row in America were more likely to exhibit decorum than their counterparts from the North or West (whose last words were more likely to involve cussing than remorse).

I’m actually fascinated. Who would have thought that the “pleases” and “thank yous” that mum worked to get into your head would become habit enough to come out even in a situation like jail? Who would have thought that the concept of honour could exist in such a place?

The article talks about the “honour culture” of places like the South. People who grow up in such a culture have an entrenched code of what is acceptable and what is not; one that might stay with them even with the diversions of life experience, deprivation, poverty or psychological disorders. Therefore, prisoners from such a background were more likely to do things like apologise, regret or accept responsibility for their actions, and ask for forgiveness.

Jail is not a nice place to be. But I find a little glimmer of hope in research like this. It affirms my belief in the fact that there is good in each human person – that no matter how far from happiness life might take them, there is still that intrinsic desire for something better. Plus it just goes to show that if you teach your kids good manners, it could really stay with them for life!

Tamara El-Rahi is an associate editor of MercatorNet. A Journalism graduate from the University of Technology Sydney, she lives in Australia with her husband and two daughters.