Report on Correctional Education for a Satellite Based Corrections Training Network

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Recommendations for a Satellite-Based Corrections Training Network
General Literacy Research

Research Related to Curriculum
Research Related to Obstacles Implementation
Research Related to Recidivism
Research Dealing with the Use of Television and Other Technologies
Research Dealing with Vocational Education Programs
Journals Regarding Correctional Education Research

Programming Available in Adult Basic Education
Other Programming Available for Correctional Education
Model Programs


"It's a good idea to use advanced technology to deliver adult basic education."

-- Jonathan Kozol
Author of Illiterate America
and Savage Inequalities
National literacy expert. Interview September 3, 1990

This report focuses on the specific business opportunity of delivering literacy training to prison inmates as part of a satellite based corrections training network. Over 750 contacts exist in the attached database which identify the market for and availability of literacy training delivered by video. We have narrowed the selection of available literacy programs and video to those we would recommend for final review.


The entire field of literacy is fragmented. There is no one person, agency, funding group, association, volunteer group, research project, clearinghouse, publication, educational institution, or person functioning in the area that can provide a balanced overview of the problem and its magnitude. Workers in the field are frustrated by this lack of focus. They are additionally frustrated by a lack of funding, central curriculum, materials, equipment, class space.

During interviews with correctional educators, it became clear that even at the state level, there is no coherent for correctional literacy programs or other educational programming. The lack of focus makes their jobs harder and forces most institutional staff members to create the program as they go based upon the available money. Educators in correctional education are pitifully underfunded and understaffed. One adult basic education instructor was responsible for the literacy training programs for a prison of 5000 inmates; based on an estimated 60 percent illiteracy rate, he was responsible for 3000 students.

There is no national delivery method for literacy or correctional literacy. There is no state using any form of telecommunications for literacy training in prisons.


The primary problems to date in delivering quality literacy programs include lack of funding, teachers, classroom space, and a heavy dependence on community volunteers. Programs with components where interaction by telephone with an outside originating classroom are usually taped by a staff person and then shown to the inmates.

Literacy Program Administration

Administration responsibilities vary by state. The department of corrections or the department of education is usually in charge of the literacy and education programs.Prison school districts administered by the state department of education exist in at least ten states. Several states have highly developed programs, but most are meager.

Literacy providers include professional paid educators and literacy volunteers. Some community colleges and universities are providing education to the prisons as well. Juvenile education may be administered by a variety of departments including social services.

Educational Philosophy

The philosophy undergirding the correctional education program varies by state. In some states, the philosophy is that prison is a punishment and educational dollars should not be wasted on the inmates. In other states education is used to divert prisoners and the goal is maintain order in the prison. Other states see education as a way to reduce recidivism. In other states, a humanistic philosophy see education as a basic human need. One correctional educator observed that only 15 percent of the inmates are worth educating; the other 85 percent are hopeless.

Policies Regarding Education

Each state sets policy on what inmates are to do with their time. There is no coherency in overall philosophy, standards, nor procedures. Some states do not require inmates to work while others require that all inmates work. Others offer a flexible schedule so that inmates can work and attend school.


Programs which offer a General Equivalency Degree (GED), or college degree, or work in vocational education are the most successful and have the lowest recidivism rates. A graduate program at a maximum security prison has a recidivism rate of zero.

Most programs offer courses called "life skills" which include parenting, employability skills, and survival skills. Inmates are typically former drop-outs from school. All educational programs for them must be relevant to the problems they encountered on the outside that led them to their crimes. Relevancy is a key issue in retaining inmates in the literacy program.

No textbook or video programming were located that were produced specifically for the inmate population.

Peer Tutoring

There is an indication that further successes will be garnered by quality literacy programs based on inmate peer tutoring.

Inmate Managed Literacy Program

The Prison Literacy Project reports enormous success with an inmate managed literacy programs. Inmates create the program and run it. A parallel volunteer group of managers functions for them on the outside. There is an inmate co-manager and a volunteer co-manager, an inmate co-coordinator and a volunteer co-coordinator, etc. Volunteers do those jobs that the inmates can't do on the outside. The volunteer co-manager says that the inmates are involved in the program and enthusiastic about it. A major component of the program is inmate peer tutoring. In another program, the inmates are tutoring the guards in basic literacy and Spanish. They're also tutoring the community - students go to the prison for their lessons with inmate tutors. The inmates also have a Toastmasters Chapter and have the community teens in for their version of "Scared Straight."


The existing research indicates that recidivism rates go down when inmates have been enrolled in quality educational programs during their imprisonment. The belief that recidivism rates go down as education is applied is much stronger than the research that supports lower rates.

Research shows that literacy programs at the lowest levels of skills (0-8th grade) still have recidivism rates that are close to the estimated national recidivism rate of 60-70 percent when education is not a factor. Correctional educators attribute this to the length of time that an inmate is in the program and the fact that the student can now read or write may not give him or her the skills to hold a job on the outside. Correctional literacy evaluation programs are so understaffed that it may take a year to assess an inmate's reading level. During that time, the inmate may be released or transferred to another facility and go to the end of the assessment line.

Correctional educators recommend that inmates participating in literacy programs be given rewards such as earlier release for passing graded level tests or for acting as a tutor.


Reports and studies recommend that technology, including television and telecommunications, be used to deliver programming. Many prisons are using computers for literacy training

No state has a satellite delivered or ITFS delivered prison literacy network. Few prisons have satellite dishes but many have cable which is delivered to a television viewing room in the prison. A number of them have cable hookups in the cells. Inmates purchase their own television sets.


A number of prisons are using video tapes for literacy training and like them. Video is available in train the trainer, basic literacy, pre-GED, GED, ESL, life skills, employability skills, and vocational education.

Maryland Public Television has produced Basic Education Teaching the Adult , a series of 30 30 minute tapes which train the literacy instructor. The series is recommended as a basis for a seminar series by Westcott Communications. Lists of programming are part of this report.

In-Service Training for Correctional Educators and Counselors

During the interviews with correctional educators, it became clear that they received little training after they were hired and the vast majority had received no correctional education courses at college. As a result, many floundered . Two universities were located which offer graduate and undergraduate correctional education and counseling programs through their schools of education.

Reception to the Idea of a Satellite Delivered Prison Literacy Network

Reception to a satellite delivered prison literacy network was very high. Only one prison correctional educator commented that he felt strongly about maintaining face-to-face classes, but then stated that he understood that the magnitude of the problem required the cost efficiencies that satellite delivery could provide.

Correctional educators wanted to maintain the programs that are in place but were enthusiastic about the prison literacy network to reach more inmates, who could then become involved in existing programs such as peer tutoring, computer training, and face-to-face classes. One educator observed that inmates do not use traditional classes as a support group in the same way that civilian illiterates do. The inmates perceive their illiteracy as a weakness that can be used against them; satellite programming delivered to the cell would alleviate some of the stigma that threatens them.

Federal Funding

    1. Total to amount over 4 years: $70 million
    2. 1992 Amount: $10 million
      • $5 million - basic literacy
      • $5 million - functional literacy (pre-GED, GED, and life skills)
    3. How grants will be made:
      • State departments of corrections must apply to U.S. Department of Education
      • Preference given to programs that use inmate peer tutors.
      • Preference given to programs that use innovative delivery methods.
    4. Contact: Gail Schwartz, U.S. Department of Education (202-732-2350)
    5. Schedule (tentative):
      • Department of Education has written the regulations covering Title VI and are currently circulating those within the department for approval.
      • Public Comments: In late September to early October, the regulations will be circulated to the public for comment and feedback.
      • Requests for proposals will be sent out in late November or early December.
      • No RFP deadline is set at this time.
      • Grants will be made in the Spring of 1992

Recommendations for a Satellite Based Corrections Training Network


Recommendation - Establish the Corrections Training Network

Because of the lack of a cohesive force in correctional education, establishing a satellite delivered prison literacy network will be received well as it will bring a national component to the curriculum around which all other programs can be organized. The concept of one curriculum that can be viewed by an inmate throughout his or her interment at all the prison facilities in which he or she may reside should be emphasized in marketing the program.

Recommendation - Seminar Series

Maryland Public Television has produced Basic Education Teaching the Adult , a series of 30 30 minute tapes which train the literacy instructor. The series is recommended as a basis for a seminar series.

Recommendation - Model Program

A model program should be created with optional components that will include existing educational programs (computers, textbooks, classes, self-study). The basis of the program should be the Prison Literacy Project at Graterford Prison, Pennsylvania. Peer tutoring should be a strong component along with information on how to set up an inmate managed program that works with outside literacy volunteers.

Recommendation - Partnership with the Prison Correctional Institute

Form a partnership with the Prison Correctional Institute, California State University - San Bernardino (CSUSB). CSUSB publishes the Journal of Correctional Education and offers a masters degree in correctional education and counseling education and is a possible source for accreditation for the Literacy Train-the-Trainer program.

A component of the network should provide training for the professional educators and counselors working in the prisons since few have prior training or in-service opportunities.

Recommendation - Further Study of the Research Literature

Further study of the research literature should be done to gain full understanding of those methods which are most successful. These methods used in the Westcott Network should be based on successful elements found in the research. Marketing should emphasize that the Network is based upon quantified research since most correctional educators hold advanced teaching degrees and have a higher comfort level with new programming based on a research base. Since many correctional education programs are becoming "accountable" for their programs (just as other educators are), this should be a strong marketing point.

Recommendation - Research Component of Network

A national study should be conducted in conjunction with the prison literacy network to ascertain whether recidivism rates are reduced as a result of the programming provided by the network. Components of the research would be used to strengthen the programming. Of necessity, the research would be long-term but would be the definitive research on the question "Are Recidivism Rates Reduced by Education." Grant funding to conduct the research might be garnered from a combination of agencies currently involved in correctional education, including The Office of Technology Assessment, the Department of Education, the Department of Justice, or the Department of Labor. No significant research is being conducted on this question now. The on-going research would be a major marketing point for educators as they would be contributing to the research if they subscribed to the prison literacy network. This would give them a stronger case to make for their accountability positions.

Recommendation - Marketing

1. Target California, Texas, Mississippi, and Missouri as initial sales.

2. Letter mailed to each state Department of Corrections including:

    • Literacy Act funding
    • Prison Network description brochure
    • Contact for instructional design information