In the early 2000’s, LDA-IA spearheaded a project to improve the literacy skills of incarcerated individuals in Iowa.
“I’ve always assumed that the ability to read was something that was automatic for each and every person. I’ve heard of individuals not being able to read, however since I had never met anyone who couldn’t, I assumed that everyone could. This may sound a little naïve but this is what I’ve subconsciously always believed. I’ve never considered myself smarter than anyone else, so I assumed that everyone could read and comprehend just as well as I. I’ve now come to realize that this couldn’t be further than the truth.”
Literacy is a foundation for life. LDA-IA wants incarcerated individuals with Learning Disabilities to invest in their lives by improving their literacy skills. We want them to re–enter society better prepared to be productive employees and to take active, positive roles as parents, family members and responsible citizens. Improved literacy is one very important factor that will help break vicious cycles of low achievement, poverty, abuse, and disenfranchisement.
Research indicates that 50% to 70% of inmates have a significant reading deficit. A very high number of inmates with reading problems have a learning disability. Further, research indicates that education programs that produce academic improvement reduce recidivism, save money, and improve chances to be employed.
About the Project
It first began at the women’s prison in Mitchellville. Anne Murr, Director of Drake University’s Adult Literacy Center, coordinated the program. Due to funding loss, the program had to be discontinued in Mitchellville.In 2005, the project was began at the Mount Pleasant Correctional Facility; in 2012, it was expanded to the Correctional Facility in Clarinda.
Instruction is done through the state’s Correctional Education system, which provides adult basic education and GED instruction. In order to pass the GED, a student must have a reading level of at least 9th grade. Students who read below that level receive literacy instruction, and students below 6th grade level are eligible for the Wilson Reading program funded by LDA-IA.
The Wilson Reading Program is an intensive phonics program that is sequentially taught, interactive, and multi-sensory. Each student advances at his own pace. By focusing on total word construction, it allows the student the skills necessary to decode words, enabling them the ability to read and spell. It was originally written for adults with dyslexia.
In each facility, select GED/Literacy instructors were trained in the Wilson reading method. Program materials and supplies were then purchased. These expenses were funded by LDA-IA.
Selected prison residents are trained as tutors and then matched to other residents needing instruction. Each tutor is assigned specific students. Each tutoring session is about 45 min. to one hour long; Monday through Friday. For the lower level readers, tutors work one-on-one, or no more than two in a group.
Results have been extremely promising; the average rise in reading levels over three months is 2 grade levels.
Did you know?
$962 per prisoner invested in academic education can save $5,306 in criminal justice costs.
-Aos, Miller, and Drake, 2006
Any education while incarcerated reduces the chance of returning to prison—up to 20% less than those who did not attend school while incarcerated—and ―…every dollar spent on education returns more than two dollars to the citizens of these states.
-Three State Recidivism Study, 2001
One million dollars spent on correctional education prevents about 600 crimes, while the same money invested in incarceration prevents 350 crimes.
-UCLA School of Public Policy and Social Research, 2004