Family Literacy in Incarcerated
Settings: Why ?
By its very definition, family literacy has an almost
universal applicability. Adult education classrooms, pre-kindergarten programs,
homeless shelters, libraries, programs for pregnant/parenting teens, and Head
Start sites are but a few of the settings in which family literacy services
thrive. Family literacy can be particularly appropriate for the incarcerated
population, as well, considering:
Seven in ten prisoners perform in the lowest two literacy
On a continuum created by National Adult Literacy Survey
(NALS) researchers, literacy was divided into five levels. Adults at Level 1,
the lowest skills level, demonstrate difficulty using certain reading,
writing, and computational skills considered necessary for functioning in daily
life, and generally function at below the fifth grade reading level.
Adults at Level 2 have stronger skills than adults at Level 1, but still have
significant literacy needs.
Furthermore, as many as 82% of inmates are reported to be
high school dropouts.(4) No less
significantly, research indicates that at least twice as many young
adults in the criminal justice system show signs of dyslexia as those in the
Approximately 70% of incarcerated individuals are
The number of children of incarcerated parents in the U.S.
is most frequently cited at 1.5 million. However, in 1994, there were 5.1
million persons under correctional supervision. At years end, on a given
day, over one million persons in state and federal prisons, and nearly 500,000
were in city and local jails. There were some 20 million admissions and
releases. So, we know that there are millions and millions of children with
parents who are or have been incarcerated in prison or in jail.(6)
3 Adult and Family Literacy in
the United States: Key Issues for the 21st Century, White Paper for 1999
National Literacy Forum (National Institute for Literacy)
4 Statistic shared at the Eighth
Annual National Conference on Family Literacy, Closing General Session
(Louisville, KY: April 12, 1999)
5 Dyslexia and criminal
offenders. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy (October 1996),
6 From Center for Community
Alternatives Internet site, http://www.dreamscape.com/ccacny.
April 9, 1999
The ideal setting is
to have the adult and the child involved in the same process of learning, if
that process has to take place in a prison, so be it.