View Full Version : What do illiterate prisoners do?


danielle
04-01-2003, 02:36 PM
Today, I had to read a letter to my dad. He is illiterate - forced to drop out of school by my grandfather at the age of 8 in order to work in cotton fields. His only brother was drafted into the military and my dad had to fill his shoes and 45 years later, he's never learned to read.

As I read the letter to him, I realized my dad is rather fortunate. He's always had someone around he could rely on - my mom or siblings or me - and he's managed. My dad is also highly intelligent - he's lived in big cities and could get anywhere in those cities. He had to learn to make it without the aid of words. It baffles me.

What do illiterate prisoners do? Do they have to rely on other prisoners? Mail must be a nightmare.

I love sending and receiving letters from my husband and can't imagine what it would be like for either one of us if we couldn't read or write. Any of you ever had or heard of experiences with illiterate prisoners?

lulu
04-01-2003, 02:46 PM
Some prsions are aware of this and they are able to get the education they need. I have a couple that has this problem and i have noticed a big improvment sense they been in school.

Helen
04-01-2003, 03:06 PM
One of my penfriends is illiterate. A friend of his reads letters to him and writes his letters for him, which he dictates. It seems to work well, although I've heard of problems. A friend of mine was writing to a prisoner who suddenly stopped writing for apparently no reason. When she finally got to the bottom of it, it turned out that he was illiterate and the person who was reading and writing for him had been transferred and he was too scared to ask anyone else to do it for him in case of ridicule. She had written to him for a number of years and had never known.

danielle
04-01-2003, 03:12 PM
Helen - it's stories like the ones you told that break my heart. I feel so bad for these men/women. If for some reason my dad wound up in prison, he'd be the same way. He'd have to depend on others and that's got to be tough.

Phil in Paris
04-01-2003, 03:29 PM
Gosh that is really sad !!! :( I never wondered about this before you brought the subject Monica !!! Damn, they all depend on the good willing of other inmates and thus are more isolated than any other inmate !! And of course they have no real privacy with their mail. This is really sad. Is there any organisation on the outside to help such prisoners ??

Chevygal55
04-01-2003, 03:34 PM
Yeah Travis had told me that he use to read and write for a couple dudes that were illiterate. I too have a friend who is illiterate that has a couple of pen pals. I read his letters and write them for him also. I do at times tell him to try to read it to me first and when he trys he gets alot of it read himself.

danielle
04-01-2003, 03:37 PM
Here's an older article from Utah:

Teaching prisoners to read reduces crime

NewsNet Staff Writer
6/26/2000
By Carolyn Peterson
carolyn@newsroom.byu.edu

With a correctional facility less then five minutes away, Hesther Rippy, volunteer director for Lehi's Family Literacy Center, has recognized the need to take crime prevention into her own hands.

By combating illiteracy, Rippy hopes to decrease the effects of criminal activity in Utah County.

Rippy organized the Lehi chapter of the Family Literacy Center two years ago, after she was called as her LDS ward's literacy consultant.

She believes the program provides students with self-esteem, and lowers crime rates.

"When students are illiterate, they can't fill out a job application. They often turn to drug dealing to make money. They look for others like them, which creates our gang problem."

The effects of illiteracy in Utah's correctional facilities show themselves in numbers, where 75 percent of inmates are not functionally literate. Seventy percent of illiterate inmates return to prison within six months of release, compared with 15 percent of literate inmates, according to Family Literacy Centers, Inc.

Rippy began the project by researching the reading scores for students in the Lehi and found a total of 574 students in grades three through nine in Lehi scored below average.

Youth aren't the only Utahns who suffer from illiteracy. One out of every six adults in Utah County cannot read and more than 250,000 adults in Utah cannot read well enough to fill out a job application, according to Family Literacy Centers, Inc.

The program also focuses on creating self-esteem. Students in the program can become tutors as well. Participants are considered "tutors in training." Volunteers need to be two grades above those they teach. When a participant has reached this level, he also becomes a tutor.

"We want participants to realize how much they're needed. We want them to reach out and serve others after others have helped them," says Rippy.

The program has received a great deal of support from the community, which is evidenced by its fast growth. The program has 138 volunteer readers and 178 students. The students and volunteers are both youth and adults.

Project Read is Provo's successful literacy program.

Started in 1986 by a group of community members, volunteers in the program focus on teaching adults. The organization also reaches out to those unable to speak English.

By teaching all residents of Utah County to read, the community hopes to lessen the effects of crime.

http://www.provo.lib.ut.us/projread/NewsNet%20Article%20062600.htm

Phil in Paris
04-01-2003, 03:46 PM
Originally posted by danielle

The program also focuses on creating self-esteem. Students in the program can become tutors as well. Participants are considered "tutors in training." Volunteers need to be two grades above those they teach. When a participant has reached this level, he also becomes a tutor.

"We want participants to realize how much they're needed. We want them to reach out and serve others after others have helped them," says Rippy.


That's a VERY GOOD thing !!! It's very motivating !!!

Thanks for this article Danielle.
Phil

jdswifey02
04-01-2003, 05:57 PM
there were several illiterate inmates in the program I used to run within the prison... and they did rely on other guys to help them read and write-- letters, grievances, etc.... There were times that a few would try to take advantage... but in general that was frowned upon BIG TIME.... if you got caught trying to run such a game you were going to catch some heat from the "old timers".....

BillysAngel
04-01-2003, 07:07 PM
I too find your story sad Helen. It brought tears to my eyes. There are programs in Texas Prisons for them and it is a very shameful thing to ask for help, but I wish all of them had the courage to overcome that shame and go ahead and ask. I have heard a lot of good stories of people that went in that couldn't read or write a single word, and they came out helping others learn :)
Never give up hope because it's NEVER too late to learn:)
diane

IRIST
04-01-2003, 07:32 PM
THAT STORY IS VERY SAD, BUT WE WOULD BE SURPRISED AT THE PEOPLE THAT WE ARE AROUND EVERYDAY THAT CAN NOT READ OR WRITE, JUST ENOUGH TO GET BY AND KEEP THEIR SECRET TO THEMSELVES. PEOPLE CAN BE REAL UNKIND AND MAKE FUN OF PEOPLE THAT HAVE ANY KIND OF HANDYCAP, BUT THEY NEED TO PUT THEIRSELVES IN THAT PERSONS SHOES JUST ONCE.
MY OLDER SON, WAS IN PRISON ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO, HE HAD TROUBLE SPELLING, SO WHILE IN PRISON, WHEN HE WROTE ME LETTERS, HE USED THE BIBLE TO FIND OUT HOW TO SPELL WORDS HE COULD NOT. WHILE DOING THIS HE LEARNED A LOT ABOUT THE BIBLE, WHICH HE WENT TO CHURCH EVERY SUNDAY WHEN HE WAS YOUNG, BUT DID NOT APPLY HIMSELF. HE HAS TROUBLE, WHEN HE READS A SENTENCE, BY THE TIME HE GETS TO THE END, HE HAS FORGOTTEN WHAT THE FIRST PART WAS ALL ABOUT, BUT YOU CAN READ IT TO HIM, AND HE UNDERSTANDS IT ALL.
YES THEY SHOULD ENCOURAGE THE INMATES TO LEARN TO READ, BUT WE KNOW HOW THAT GOES INSIDE THE PRISON, OTHER INMATES TAKE ADVANTAGE AND MAKE FUN OF THEM.
BUT WHAT CAN YOU DO IF THEY DO NOT WANT TO LEARN TO READ? GOD BLESS THEM ALL AND HELP THEM MAKE IT THRU THESE BAD DARK TIMES IN THEIR LIVES. MAY THEY ALL BE FREE ONE DAY. LOVE, FAITH, HOPE AND OUR SUPPORT WILL HELP THEM ALL. GOD BLESS AMERICA

KConnor56
04-01-2003, 08:22 PM
I've known many illiterate, & semi illiterate prisoners. I've told this story before but I'll tell it again here. I had a neighbor who was illiterate & I would read his mail to him. He had another guy write his letters for him. Anyway, he loved his mail, & especially looked forward to mail from his girlfriend. He would get his mail, & just wait for me to come back so I could read it to him, & he was always excited when it was a letter from his old lady. I would always read the letter to myself all the way through first because this helped me to read it outloud to him. Well, one day I come back to my cell, & he's been waiting, & he's all excited, & he has a letter from his old lady that he wants read to him. So I invite him into my cell, we sit down & I read the letter. Well this is a Dear John letter. So, I tell him this isn't good then I read the letter to him. This letter litterally ripped his heart out. It was an extreamly uncomfortable situation. After that experiance, I never read mail to any one ever again, & I won't do it now. ---------Ken

Lysbeth
04-01-2003, 09:00 PM
Oh gosh, Ken. I hadn't thought about those possibilities when thinking of people reading to the illiterate ones. How sad, and how awful for you. You were so good to read to him for so long tho, but I can certainly understand why after that experience you never did it again. Poor guy, and poor you. :(

Ivory
04-01-2003, 09:24 PM
What a terrible experience, Ken....I have also been in a similar situation while having to translate "bad news" letters. It's pretty heartbreaking for the recipient because this kind of pain should be "private".

mrsdragoness
04-01-2003, 09:59 PM
I know my husband helps a couple of guys out when they write letters. In Michigan, getting a GED is a requirement for parole. I think it should be a requirement in all prisons!!

Mrs. D

KConnor56
04-01-2003, 10:05 PM
Ivory, exactly I was embaressed, he was embaressed, he was hurt, started to cry, got mad etc. This was a fairly big guy, & was in for violent crimes, & I pictured myself getting into it with him because he nutted up & both of us going to the hole & screwing off our dates, but that didn't happen. It was just an ugly situation.

I've seen guys get Dear John letters who deserved them, or at least I understood why they got them, but this was just out of the blue, no warning, no bad blood, no violence between them, plus he had two kids with this woman. He kept asking me questions which I couldn't answer, anyway, it was just ugly.

I was a tutor at one prison teaching prisoners, although I taught math (algebra & geometry), & preped guys for their GED test. I know most criminals are the smartest people, but it surprised me how many actually were functionally illiterate or semi illiterate. The only programs we had were ones we as prisoners ran for each other. -----------Ken

mrsdragoness
04-02-2003, 08:32 AM
Ken, I can't imagine how bad you felt. How awful for him AND you!! I agree with you...a lot of people in prison are very smart. Unfortunately sometimes SMART people have no common sense - which leads them into doing DUMB things and ending up incarcerated.

Mrs. D