Prison reading programs getting attention

Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project

Alabama Prison Arts &
Education Project

When a program works, it gets noticed. Take for instance, Great Books Reading Initiative at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women. Through a partnership of Troy University, Ingram State Technical College, Alabama Department of Corrections and Alabama Humanities Foundation, this program is turning lives around.

And its effectiveness is getting noticed.

In this pilot program, English professors from Troy conduct classes each week at the prison, which centers on assigned reading for 20 inmates with self-reflective analysis of what they read.

It is helping them better understand the world around them, and it is aiding them in GED studies and giving them a better shot at not returning to prison once they leave.

“Education is one of those key pillars enabling these ladies to be future productive citizens of Alabama,” said Jeff Dunn, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections in an interview with Tropolitan. “We’re hopeful programs like this will lead to a better life and, most importantly, a life outside of the fence of Tutwiler.”

“If you want to see where transformation is occurring in corrections in Alabama, look here at Tutwiler,” he told al.com. “This is a picture of what can be done when various partners come together and decide they want to change a place for the better.”

The initiative is not the first venture behind bars for AHF’s financial support. According to AHF Grants Director Thomas Bryant, AHF has been awarding grants to the Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project, an outreach of Auburn University, for several years. It also is a college level, scholar-facilitated reading and analytical discussion of important works of literature. It has been operating in several prisons across Alabama.

And AHF’s Literature and the Veterans Experience program is now at Elmore Correctional Facility through a partnership with the Alabama Prison Arts & Education Project.

“It is important to note the positive effect that humanities-based education programs have on inmates. These programs, which center on higher-level reading, vocabulary and grammar building, and development of critical thinking skills, are helping change lives by broadening participants understanding of the world and their place in it, giving them a feeling of hope for a better chance at a successful life outside prison, and, in turn, drastically reducing recidivism rates which benefits all of us,” Bryant said. “AHF is proud to support these kinds of programs and grants, knowing the impact will last long after they are no longer in prison.”