Recently I had the opportunity to go into a state jail. It’s a minimum-security facility; most of the inmates are serving two or fewer years. The first thing I learned when I arrived at the site was, “Never let your guard down, don’t forget for one minute where you are.” I agree they are incarcerated for a reason. After a few visits, being in class with these men It was hard not to see these individuals as more than just inmates. I learned a very important lesson; in most cases, the crime is what you did, it doesn’t have to be who you are. There is so much more to these men than just their crimes. Aside from the fact that they were fathers, brothers, uncles, and nephews. These men possess the skills to run business, start companies, open restaurants create wealth. So, what happened? LIFE. There but by the grace of God go I. They ran out of options. We’ve all been there, but we had a support system to fall back on. One other important thing that stood out, was the fact that most of these gentlemen didn’t finish high school, and if they did they couldn’t read above a 5th-grade reading level. These individuals have learned to compensate for their deficit in reading; albeit an illegal method, they did what they had to do to survive.
Which brings me to the reason for this blog. How many of us know someone that can’t read or they’re barely reading at a 3rd-grade reading level. Oh, believe me, there are signs, “I left my glasses at home, those words are just too small, can you read the menu for me?”In the United States alone, there are over four million illiterate or barely literate individuals. We live in a very fast-paced society. How are these people supposed to cope, make a living, just survive? In recent years employers have made it mandatory for their employees to seek their HSE (GED), but what about the ones that aren’t made to go back to school. If the rate of illiteracy continues to rise, then we should expect the rate of incarceration to go up as well. I’ll be working in jails for a long time.