Children with low reading rates also have a statistically higher chance of going to prison, and unfortunately, to keep returning, USA Today reports.
Nationwide, about 70% of incarcerated people cannot read at the fourth-grade level. In Oregon, 15% of incarcerated adults read below the eighth-grade level, however, with no state-by-state comparison data, evaluating reading abilities in different prison systems is difficult.
“A lot of these folks have been in the criminal justice system since they were young children, so those cute lit-tle folks that we should have taught to read before? They are adults now. And they still deserve the opportunity. They still deserve the opportunity to do better,” said Julianne Jack-son, a criminal justice reform advocate from Salem, Oregon.
Childhood reading ability is a key factor for high school graduation. Education advocates want more options and increased access to higher education classes during and after prison. Existing organizations already support parolees with housing and employment after their release, but there is lack of support for continuing education and literacy, they say.
Incarcerated students and education programs additionally face numerous barriers such as daily or weekly class roster changes, interruptions, counseling and health appointments, lockdowns, or housing units having to return for emergency counts.
Yet these prison literacy efforts and education programs help reduce the rate of violence in prisons and break the cycle of crime, the article reported. Those who parole may receive information about educational opportunities upon their release, but many barriers remain for them to achieve educational success and becoming reading proficient.
“If we are going to address homelessness and hunger, we have got to address literacy. We’re never going to reduce recidivism if we do not address literacy,” said Vivian Ang, executive director of the Mid-Valley Literacy Center in Salem.