Prison Book Program

Guest blog post by Pam Boiros, volunteer and core group member of Prison Book Program

The volunteers of Prison Book Program, located near Boston, MA, were delighted to learn that our grant proposal won a Spring 2011 Literacy and Education in Action Program (LEAP) award.  Our proposal related to the General Equivalency Diploma (GED), providing a comprehensive GED test-prep guide and an English dictionary to approximately 220 prisoners throughout the United States.

According to the Department of Justice, 77% of US prisoners have not received a high school diploma. Yet GEDs are necessary for almost any job. A New York Department of Corrections study showed that prisoners who earn their GED are up to 14% less likely to return to prison within the next three years. Given that at least 90% of the 650,000 prisoners incarcerated every year will eventually re-enter society, gaining critical education skills is paramount.

Many prisoners work toward their GED while in prison, and while we frequently get requests for GED materials from our prisoner patrons, we are not usually able to fulfill those requests due to normal budgetary constraints.  Thankfully, the LEAP grant has enabled us to build a program around this important educational goal, while collecting data from the participants in order to do our own primary research.

Any incarcerated individual wishing to participate in the program must complete and return a survey which asks questions about their past educational experience and intended plans to take the GED program.


As of July 2011, over 20 prisoners from 12 states have successfully completed the survey, been accepted into the program, and have been sent the GED materials as a direct result of this program.   The initial surveys from these individuals reveal some interesting, if not surprising, information including reasons why people left school — “the streets got a hold of me,” “made bad decisions,” “dropped out to start work.” In general, the recipients report that they generally enjoyed school “somewhat,” but that they like learning “a lot”.

We think prisoners that fit the profiles like those we have received will be excellent candidates for undertaking the effort needed to self-study, follow up to schedule and take the exam when ready, and gain this critical credential.

Over the course of the coming months, we will facilitate the distribution of the remainder of the GED materials covered by the LEAP grant to additional qualified candidates. We will also follow up with participants to learn the status of their GED journey, track if they remain incarcerated or get released. Then we will draw connections between the acquisition of the GED and educational success and personal growth both while incarcerated and after release (if applicable).  This is a long-term project and we look forward to what we will learn as a result.  Watch for periodic updates, testimonials from program participants, and more.

“I would like to express my appreciation for your kindness and dedication to putting substance back into the word ‘corrections,’ also for assisting me through such trying times with tools to free myself mentally. Thanks for unlocking the gates.”
- from a prisoner from Sussex, IL

Thank you so much to our donors and customers who make the LEAP donations possible. We could not help bring about a better world without each one of you!

2 Comments

  1. This sounds like a great program. I taught for many years in a juvenile corrections facility and you are absolutely correct that most of these people have little or no education. It was amazing to me the number of students we had who told me that they had never read a book until they were locked up! Then, since they had little else to do in their free time, they picked up a book and decided to read. Some of them became avid readers for the first time in their lives.

  2. Becky….fair play! Sooo true – I teach the equivalent of High School in Ireland and am delighted that someone is looking after the less fortunate in society/those who need a second chance – let those who have committed crime move on, so to speak! Sinéad

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