By Christopher Zoukis

Across the U.S. fully 43% of adults read at a grade 8 level or lower — 29% can only read at an eighth grade level, and 14% can only grasp material at a fifth grade level or lower. Throughout the country, thousands of adults are functionally illiterate, which has a huge negative impact on their day-to-day lives. Early childhood is a crucial time to set the right path for literacy. An interest in reading is often determined as early as first grade, with fourth-grade reading levels being an indicator of future success. Research shows that children who struggle to read in first grade are 88% more likely to struggle in grade four. And those who struggle in fourth grade are four times more likely to drop out of school.

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By Catherine Prigg The ongoing national debate about whether incarcerated individuals deserve the privilege of an education is fueled by strong emotions about how unfair it is to pay for a criminal to go to school when law abiding citizens work very hard, and incur lots of debt to put themselves and their children through…

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By Christopher Zoukis Young Tyler Fugett from Tennessee recently used his allowance money to buy books for local prisoners, scouring clearance sales at local book stores. The boy, 9, donated more than 100 books to the Montgomery Sheriff’s Office in hopes they would go to the local prison, and has been collecting more, along with…

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By Christopher Zoukis Slowly, but surely, it feels like change is coming when it comes to prison education. Certainly many days it can feel like an uphill battle, but that’s why it’s so important to enjoy stories like these. Ten years ago prison reform wasn’t even on most legislators’ radars, let alone the public’s. Fast…

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The recent announcements of the pilot project restoring Pell Grants to qualified inmates has been greeted almost universally with praise; there is no question that the positive social and economic outcomes of this initiative will be huge.  But while we should certainly applaud these measures, we must remember that there’s an important step that becomes…

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By Christopher Zoukis

While I know you must be tired of hearing about the FCI Petersburg Education Department being closed — trust me, the inmates of FCI Petersburg are tired of it, too — but it is closed yet again.  In fact, it has been closed for most of the day.  While we should be used to this sort of disrespectful treatment, lack of notice, and loss of class time and legal research time, each additional instance when it is closed is like an additional slap in the face to those who yearn for the school doors to be unchained, and for knowledge to be accessible and allowed at FCI Petersburg.  A closed library serves no one.

I’m sad to report that the FCI Petersburg Education Department is closed more and more these days.  The culture of failure is thus reinforced.  In fact, a portion of the leisure library was closed from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM for a shakedown.  Then, the entire Education Department was closed from 12:40 PM until 2:00 PM (plus the normal 10:30 AM to 12:40 PM closure) for an additional shakedown.  But I can assert that it is not being searched for contraband tonight because all of the lights are off and no one is home.  It was also closed last Thursday night (again, no lights and no one to unlock the door).  One is left to wonder if the administration of the FCI Petersburg Education Department even wants the inmate population to frequent their establishment of alleged learning.  God knows that the incarcerated students of FCI Petersburg want to learn, but if no one is there to unlock the door, no learning can take place.

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Being incarcerated in prison can be very lonely. Isolated from friends and family, inmates often have little contact with the outside world. Imagine how important it can be to a prisoner to receive a letter from someone who can talk about day-to-day events in the outside world.

Studies show that prisoners who have frequent contact with society outside of prison walls, are less likely to recommit a crime, helping to reduce recidivism rates.

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