Today Writing Wranglers and Warriors
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Posted by Renee Kimball
Imagine being unable to read or to read at such a low level that you cannot understand a simple receipt, a renter’s lease, or your child’s homework, complete a job application, or learn a basic skill set. If one is functionally illiterate – unable to read and comprehend the simplest of materials -daily life is a monumental struggle.
One of the largest populations of the functionally illiterate are found within the criminal justice system of the United States. The U.S. prison population is now at 2.2 million, and according to The Literacy Project, 75 percent of these are functionally illiterate. This number however, does not include the number of individuals on parole status–currently over 3 million.
Inmate illiteracy will remain a road block to social integration unless educational opportunities are provided – most importantly– reading skills. Without educational support the recidivist cycle is a revolving door back to prison. The Rand study found prisoners who are provided educational support “had a 43 percent lower odds of recidivating than those who did not.”
There are however, many who believe that providing reading materials – books – are a way to break the hopeless cycle of recidivism.
In Texas, The Inside Book Project, ISP, responds to prisoners’ requests for reading and instructional materials and providing over 35,000 books yearly to Texas inmates. ISP’s site provides a listing of inmates’ most requested books, where a dictionary is the second most requested item. They also list books that are not allowed by the Texas correctional system (each state has specific requirements as to subject matter allowed in their system).
If you happen to be a lover of books and are considering donating the books you no longer need, consider researching which local organization in your state provides books for prisoners– you might just possibly change a life.
A former paralegal, Renee Kimball has a master’s degree in criminal justice. Among her interests are reading and writing. She is active in rescuing dogs from shelters and placing them in forever homes.