Can a Workplace Credentialing Program Improve Inmate Literacy?

Brown, Martha A.; Rios, Steve J.
May 2014
Journal of Correctional Education;May2014, Vol. 65 Issue 2, p59
Academic Journal
Correctional educators, recognizing that the majority of inmates lack the math, reading, and language skills required to be successful in today's workplace, strive to equip offenders with the skills and abilities needed to find and maintain work on their release. However, most adult literacy programs in prisons fail to raise the gradelevel equivalency scores of low-performing students high enough to qualify inmates for General Education Development preparation courses, and many do not equip inmates with the basic computer skills needed to apply for most jobs. This pre-/posttest, single-group study on Florida Ready to Work (FLRTW), a computer-based workplace credentialing program, is the first of its kind in a correctional environment. The purpose of this study is to determine the impact of FLRTW on learning gains in reading, language, and math as measured by the Test of Adult Basic Education. Fifty-three male inmates residing in a private, therapeutic work-release center who were required to complete FLRTW voluntarily agreed to participate in this study. Findings indicate much larger than average grade-level increases ranging from 3.1 to 3.5, with no moderating impact by the independent variables of race, age, sentence length, and prior incarcerations. The study fills a knowledge gap related to the effectiveness of workplace credentialing programs in correctional institutions, and provides recommendations related to policy, practice, and research in this challenging environment.


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