NLA Discussion: Correctional education
pjjurmo at intac.com
Sat Aug 9 04:30:42 EDT 1997
Here's an article of possible interest to those who'd like to see greater
investment in correctional education: "Behind Bars" was the lead article
in the October 1986 (vol. 1, No. 9) issue of the Business Council for
Effective Literacy Newsletter.
Here are highlights:
. . . The growth in the prison population in the U.S. "has been
staggering" (even back in '86).
. . . Social attitudes about the purposes of incarceration vary from
"rehabilitation" to "punishment." These attitudes shape investment in
. . . Correctional educators have developed effective models of
education which help inmates develop the basic, social, and technical skills
they need for productive lives.
. . . Steve Steurer of the Correctional Education Association is quoted:
"What we need most is a global piece of legislation that would help set
the tone for national reform and provide a clear policy to guide program
planning and standards at all levels. Money is urgently needed, too.
Right now there is no legislation that provides funds strictly for
correctional education. The states have to use bits and pieces out of
any legislation they can find that in one way or another impinges on
basic skills. . . . There is no central agency responsible for gathering
information about corrections education, so that it is extremely
difficult to get a handle on the whole picture. We've got to take a look
at the programs that work and see how and what's being taught. What
gains are being made beyond the simple achievement measures? What about
the effect on self-worth? does the development of literacy provide
something meaningful for the inmate when he returns to society or is it a
major building block on which other educational efforts need to be
founded? And how does literacy fit into the continuum of education for
the job and social skills needed to survive on the outside?"
. . . A federal official is quoted: "In our system, we do a fairly good
job of assisting the individual to get ready for a positive life
style on release. We spend thousands a year on that. But once the
person leaves, everything can fall apart. There's no unemployment
insurance, isolation from the mainstream, no support system. Agency
services are fragment and uncoordinated."
. . . Steve Steurer again: "It's not enough for decisions about the
correctinal and rehabilitative process to be made by security and other
treatment staff -- which is often the case. Correctional educators need
to be much more closely involved in the decision-making."
Although the above article is now 11 years old, my guess is that the
issues and questions it raises are still very relevant today. In fact,
the questions it raises could -- if you delete the references
to "inmates" and prison contexts -- be applied to the larger adult
education field today.
That is, we still need direction and support from the national level in
all areas of literacy education. States often still need to piece together
scraps of resources from various sources to respond to adult education
needs. In many states there is still no central agency which collects
information about and coordinates efforts related to adult basic
education. We're still struggling to determine what are appropriate
measures of learner achievement. We need to tie literacy services in
with other opportunities which learners need to meet work, family, and
community goals. And adult educators need to be involved in the
decisions which shapte the work we do.
In other words, in correctional education and other areas of adult basic
education, we've made progress on these and other issues, but we still
have much work to do and are in need of resources and leadership with
which to do it.
I believe copies of this newsletter are available from the National
Institute for Literacy.
14 Griffin Street
East Brunswick, NJ 08816-4806
More information about the Nla-nifl-archive