Prison libraries have the power to act as a rehabilitation center for prisoners. Libraries provide an escape without actual escape. Recently, West Virginia contracted with Global Tel Link (GTL) to provide incarcerated individuals access to tablets. With thousands of ebooks available, these tablets could act like a library that could increase literacy rates, provide rehabilitation, and have positive returns for inmates. So what’s the problem? These companies are charging prisoners for usage.
The usage costs of the tablets vary, but on average readers are charged 3 cents per minute to read an ebook. On average, most prisoners would spend nearly $15 to read one book. With little income earned in prison and other items from the commissary taking priority, the cost of reading one book could mean individuals would have to sacrifice phone calls, shoes, jackets, and other necessities.
Access to free libraries and education programs in prison is an extremely important aspect of the rehabilitation process for many. Here are five ways prison libraries and education programs can benefit inmates:
1) Inmates who participate in education programs have a lower recidivism rate.
A study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that 68% of prisoners are incarcerated again within three years of their release date. There is a 43% reduction in recidivism rates for prisoners who utilized the library and participated in the prison education programs.
These studies prove that providing education courses and opportunities in prison can act as rehabilitation for those involved.
2) Prison education programs can help increase generational literacy rates.
Postsecondary prison education has shown positive effects on intergenerational literacy rates. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), children of parents with low literacy skills have a 72% chance of being at the lowest reading levels themselves. These children are more likely to get poor grades, display behavioral problems, have high absentee rates, repeat school years, or drop out.
3) Inmates who participate and earn degrees through prison education programs have increased employment opportunities upon release.
Re-entering the workforce post-incarceration has a myriad of challenges and barriers especially for those without a high school diploma. Those with a criminal record are 15% to 30% less likely to find a job and will earn 11% less than those doing the same job without a criminal record. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Rand Report: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education, 75% of state prison inmates did not complete high school or can be classified as low literate. Postsecondary education certificates and degrees can help increase the rate of success upon re-entry into the workforce and community.
4) Inmates enrolled in prison education programs receive less disciplinary infractions than inmates who are not enrolled.
Studies show that prisons with college programs are less violent than those without, creating a safer environment for incarcerated individuals and staff. According to the Impact of Inmates Education Programs on Misconduct and Recidivism, inmates who earned postsecondary education certificates or completed college classes were less violent and received less disciplinary infractions than those who did not take any classes.
5) Inmates who use the prison libraries have higher average literacy rates than inmates who don’t.
A study showed that inmates who used the prison library had higher average literacy when reading prose and documents. Those who used the library resources daily showed improvement in language literacy levels and math skills.