North Carolina Department of Correction news release

MARCH 23, 1998

Prison teams with community college of offer literacy program for prisoners

HENDERSONVILLE - When an inmate is released from prison, hopes are that he will be able to turn his life around and become a productive member of society. Henderson Correctional Center is doing its part to make that happen.

With help from the community, the prison successfully implemented an inmate literacy program and a GED program at the beginning of this year. Melanie Taylor, correctional programs supervisor at Henderson, hopes these programs will help keep the inmates from returning to prison once they are released.

"It’s amazing how many inmates need this kind of help," she said. "Lack of education and communication skills is what caused many of these guys to get in trouble in the first place."

When Taylor first began her job at Henderson Correctional Center in October 1997, the prison had no educational programs in place for the inmates. Working in partnership with Blue Ridge Community College, Taylor started the prison’s GED program in January with eight students. The literacy program followed soon thereafter in February with help from the Blue Ridge Literacy Council.

Currently, four inmates are participating in the literacy program, meeting with tutors twice a week for an hour and a half at a time. Taylor said, initially, more than 10 inmates signed up for the program, but there were not enough tutors to accommodate everyone right away. "We are working on getting more tutors," she said. "We have some wonderful volunteers who have said that they would be interested in tutoring the inmates."

The Blue Ridge Literacy Council, provides all training for the volunteers and materials for the program. Diane Bowers, director of the Blue Ridge Literacy Council, said the volunteers go through a nine-hour training program, focusing on sensitivity issues and proper use of the materials.

The program is based on the concept of one-on-one tutoring. Inmates set their own objectives and can get help on anything from reading and writing to how to fill out job applications and prepare resumes. "The one-on-one concept works great because it allows the tutors to adapt the program and materials to the individual’s pace and learning style," Bowers said.

Carl Waters, an inmate at Henderson Correctional Center enrolled in the literacy program, said he believes the program will help him succeed when he is released from prison. "This program has helped me a lot," he said. "My basic goal when I get out is to help other kids. I teach art classes to the kids at church and by getting this tutoring, it has helped me teach the kids. Maybe it will keep some of them from coming here where I am."

Correction Secretary Mack Jarvis said more than 3,600 inmates across the state are enrolled in job training or education programs in North Carolina’s prisons. "Providing opportunities for offenders to become productive citizens is part of the mission of the Department of Correction," he said. "Educating inmates and giving them job training helps reduce the recidivism rate. On average, forty-one percent of inmates who leave prison return in three years."