Help teach prisoners literacy skills so they can “learn their lessons well.”
They say that reading opens up new worlds. The opposite is also true: not reading shuts out worlds waiting to be explored.
Sixty-to-eighty percent of men and women in U.S. prisons are functionally illiterate and one in four has a learning disability. Help from volunteer tutors can open many new doors of opportunity.
In addition to their physical incarceration, many prisoners find themselves confined by a lack of basic literacy skills, which include reading, writing, and comprehension. These skills are necessary for securing employment when prisoners are released, but they’re also important in prison.
During incarceration, inmates may feel more isolated and have fewer ways to occupy their time because they can’t read books/magazines or write letters. If they are assigned programs to attend, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA), they can’t read the class materials. And, even if the prison offers a GED program, many can’t participate because their reading levels are too low.
Basically, they’re stuck. If their literacy skills don’t improve in prison, when released they’ll continue in the same hopeless situation. Many will soon return to prison.
But where there is great need, there is also great opportunity. A tutoring outreach within the prison is a very practical way to help men and women prepare for a better life when they are released. If you love people, enjoy reading, and like to teach this could be an exciting and fulfilling ministry.
Here are some tips on getting started:
- Literacy Programs for Prisoners:
Download Prison Fellowship’s Volunteer Opportunity Bulletin about tutoring inmates. Share it with others in your church who might be interested.
- Begin to pray about what God wants you to do, and ask Him to open doors for literacy tutoring in a nearby prison where the need is greatest.
- Start a book drive to collect low-level reading materials that can be used in tutoring inmates or donated to a prison library.
- Equip yourself for ministry. Literacy Missions Connections (www.literacymissionsconnectionssbc.net) trains leaders to teach adults to read and write. Also, ABC Literacy Resources (www.abcliteracy.org) specializes in helping adults with learning disabilities.
- Contact your local PF staff at 800-251-7411 to inquire about existing programs or starting a new program at a nearby facility.
Teaching prisoners to read and write is a wonderful way to demonstrate the love of Christ. Just imagine the doors opened and barriers removed. Most of all imagine prisoners now able to read and understand the life-giving words of the Bible for themselves. It could certainly change hearts, minds, and eternal destinies.