About the Program

Educational programming is in strong demand in correctional facilities, and our book discussion program changes lives. Motivating readers through group interaction builds literacy skills and confidence.

Direct Service

Listening skills invoke empathy. Understanding each other weakens racially-motivated peer pressure. Offenders engage those they may have never interacted with before. Journals provided to each participant allow for private reflection. Initially withdrawn participants find the courage to respond to what they read, (through the buffer of characters and plot,) and wind up discussing personal memories, past choices and regrets, while sharing new ways of thinking about their lives. Improved literacy results from mastering the novels we read and discuss together. Together, reading builds concentration and stamina, skills for further learning and employability. For the offender serving a lengthy, or life sentence, the program provides an opportunity to belong to something positive, where they are respected, challenged and encouraged:as we meet for one reason, and one reason alone, to gain a transformative education through literature. If you’re preparing for release you will build confidence and a sense of purpose.

Systemic Reform

Hassan Latif from the Second Chance Center
Hassan Latif from the Second Chance Center partners with our program

We build connections with other advocacy groups to create visibility.We support prison reform measures through public policy recommendations to lawmakers.We network, collaborate and make an impact. Our direct service supports our commitment to progressive social change. We collect the data that shows that education is always a win-win investment.

  • Data from the 2015 Rand Report on Justice Reform tells us that inmates who participate in any kind of educational program behind bars are up to 43% less likely to reoffend and return to prison.
  • Every dollar invested in correctional education saves nearly five in reincarceration costs over three years.
  • In 2013, 2.2 million people are incarcerated in in U.S. prisons/jails; 1/3 never graduated from high school.
  • Every year, 700,000 state and federal prisoners are released back into their communities often with no greater life skills than they had when they went in. 40% commit new crimes and find themselves back behind bars within three years.
  • Words Beyond Bars contributes to breaking that cycle.