CRANSTON, R.I. – July 31, 2007 – Education is an integral component of the prisoner reentry process, and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections is committed to improving an ex-offenders chances of success by providing educational opportunities during incarceration. The Department recognizes that returning prisoners needs at least a basic education in order to be successful in finding employment.
Testing indicates that a good 70 percent of inmates are functionally illiterate when they come to prison and 60 percent do not have a GED. Educational programming occurs in every facility within the Adult Correctional Institutions five days a week on a full-time, year-round basis and on evenings and weekends as well. The availability of educational programming to certain populations may be limited by the restrictions against mixing certain populations, but everyone can receive instruction at least several times a week. Each of the state’s eight prisons has designated classroom areas and libraries, which are available to all inmates as scheduling permits.
Programs range from Adult Basic Education, English as a Second Language (ESL) Special Education/Title I, Inmate Literacy Program, GED classes and testing in English and Spanish, post secondary programs, and vocational training programs. The Education Unit also manages all reading libraries and law libraries within the facilities.
During spring graduation ceremonies in June, the Education Unit presented a total of 530 inmates in six facilities with certificates in either GED, ABE, ESL, arts programs, or vocational training. An additional 557 inmates completed CCRI classes, including three who received Associate’s degrees from CCRI.
CCRI President Raymond DiPasquale was present at the graduation ceremonies in the John J. Moran Medium Security facility to present inmates David Ellis, Christopher Bergin, and Frank Bertram with their Associates degrees. Will Jackson, who coordinates the CCRI/DOC programs, noted in his introductory remarks that he sees among the inmate population “the purest drive for learning of any population I’ve worked with.” President Di Pisquale said, “I am honored to present these three diplomas and to have you join the 1,286 men and women who received CCRI degrees this spring. You are an example of what can be achieved with determination and hard work.”
Corrections Director Ashbel T. Wall II shared a story he had heard at a conference in New York on the restoration of voting rights to convicted felons. The speaker, an ex-offender, now runs H.I.R.E., an organization that assists ex offenders in finding employment. He found during his incarceration that “Education was my ticket out. I found that by reading, I could be transported into a world way beyond the walls of the prison.”
The RIDOC’s Education Unit is currently in the third of its seven-week summer school session and will be testing until late August. It is anticipated that approximately 125 inmates will complete their GED requirements this academic year.
The RIDOC was recently presented with a $100,000 check (to go toward ESL, GED, and Spanish GED services for inmates) by Governor Donald Carcieri. It is among 38 community-based agencies across the state to receive $9 million in grant support from the Governor’s Office. In addition, the RIDOC receives approximately $550,000 in federal money through the Rhode Island Department of Education.