News and Media News stories The illiteracy epidemic in US prisons Illiteracy is a massive issue in US prisons, according to a recent Observer article. A recent study by the Literacy Project Foundation found that 85% youth offenders in the USA struggle with reading and 3 out of 5 prison inmates are illiterate— other studies place this figure as high as 75%. Research links good education with low reoffending rates, but the issue of illiteracy is often left unaddressed. One advocate of prisoner education programmes is Clifford “Spud” Johnson, who turned to creative writing whilst in prison. Many inmates read his stories, but many others were unable to. As Johnson looked into the issue more, he realised that poor literacy reinforced a system of oppression of prisoners, many of whom were also victims of racism within the criminal justice system. Since his release, several of Johnson’s books have been published by the largest African American publishing company in the world, Urban Books, and he continues endorsing efforts to help inmates learn to read and educate themselves. Prisoners Abroad believe that reading can be enormously beneficial to British citizens incarcerated overseas. We send books, magazines and newspapers to prisoners, so they can learn new things, pass the time and escape the daily routine of prison life—essential to maintain good mental health. Many prisoners do not understand the local language of their facility, so having access to English-language books or local-language dictionaries also helps fight the social isolation experienced by many of the people we work with. For prisoners who struggle with reading—or simply those with a taste for young adult fantasy!—we also offer books at an easier reading level such as Harry Potter and many more. All our direct services are provided with our service users in mind, so we do our very best to match them with the type of books or magazines they enjoy. As one of our clients said: “Thanks to all the team at Prisoners Abroad for sending me books and magazines. The books could not have been better picked. Here there is no work and time hangs heavy. A parcel of books and a few magazines are a real tonic.”—A prisoner in Venezuela We also encourage our service users to try their hands at creative writing and poetry, by giving them the opportunity to be published in our tri-annual newsletter. You can see some of their fantastic work here. Don’t forget that you can get involved with Prisoners Abroad by donating your old books and magazines. We send paperbacks, magazines and newspapers in good condition to beneficiaries all over the world. So if you’re ready to pass on what you’ve already read, get in touch with us at: [email protected] or 020 7561 6820 to find out more. Your support can make a huge difference to the life of a British citizen in prison abroad. For more ways you can get involved, click here.