Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Prison educator: TDCJ inmates' reading and math on a 5th grade level

The average Texas prison inmate's reading and math skills are at a fifth grade level, the superintendent of TDCJ's Windham School District told the Senate Criminal Justice Committee this morning.

Large numbers of the nearly 70,000 inmates leaving Texas prisons every year, he told the committee, do so without a GED. The agency grants about 5,000 GEDs per year.

Chairman John Whitmire briefly raised the question of computer proficiency among inmates leaving the system, and I found myself wishing the superintendent had discussed it more. The ability to use a computer - particularly word processing and spreadsheet software, but even basic internet search functions - can be essential these days, even for retail or service work.

For that matter, in 2018, searching for a job most frequently means searching on the internet. That's harder to do if, first, one has to learn how to ACCESS the internet.

Those skills should be taught in prisons.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Torture doesn't help either. After my relative got out of Boyd and Skyview he immediately qualified for nursing home level care under Medicare's PACE program in El Paso.

Texas taxpayers get your wallets out---time to ante up to pay for down home rough and tough cowboy justice.

He's Innocent said...

Windham ISD is so stymied by funding constraints. It's a shame because Dr. Carpenter is a great superintendent. He's doing the best he can, but lawmakers are bound and determined to ensure that folks come out worse off than they went in. PTSD, health issues, mental health issues, everything. This is the one place that would go the furthest for the 70k folks released each year. But nope.....

Anonymous said...

keeping inmates in a revolving door keeps the legal guild employed---not to mention the TDCJ jobs program of WMW (white man's welfare).

Steven Seys said...

When it comes to access to a computer Texas prison guards and administrators are luddites. I am above average in intelligence and entered prison with a set of 1970s computer skills. The year I was incarcerated IBM released the PC and changed the paradigm of computer use in business. So I took the course in data processing offered by the local community college. From that time forth, the Wardens and senior guards were convinced that if I had access to the internet I would immediately be robbing banks and moving satellites because I could. It didn't matter to them that internet access is impossible without an ISP.

Anonymous said...

My son is a guest in TDCJ and it has been an up hill battle to get education. No one seems to know all the rules to all the programs. He decided he needed to be practical and learned how to weld and now is working on his bachelorl’s. Computer literacy should be taught to all within 2 years of leaving. He did old fashioned correspondence courses for college math, but print based correspondence is harder to find because of cost and most correspondence is on-line. Basic life skills for the modern world for those leaving prison. For those that think education is ‘free’ in prison, not so....I have paid for every course he has taken. I am not sure if the GED has a fee, but trades, college and correspondence come at a price. It may be reduced, but families have to pay.

TDCJ’s attitude towards education needs to change, these men and women are not worthless, they have made mistakes, this should not define who they are. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many and finding a place to live and employment is hard.

Anonymous said...

As a vendor to many correctional educational entities across the country, the Windham School District is light years ahead in what they provide offenders compared to the educational options of other state systems.

Texas gets a bad rap in the media but really stands out in what they provide offenders in meaningful opportunities for employment upon release. And the recidivism rate among participants in their vocational programs is about 7%.

Many states would love to boast a 7 percent rate like that.

BarkGrowlBite said...

If prison inmates can only read and do math at the 5th grade level, they are doing as well as many high school graduates.

As for that 7% recidivism rate, that is a pipe dream!

Anonymous said...

And what kind of job can you get with just a high school diploma and it's apparent 5th grade only reading level?

Burger flipper, janitor, and oh yeah, policeman.

You could also join the Army but they must do something special there because those kids can follow instructions not to shoot at anyone until they've been shot at themselves... I guess we're lucky burger flippers and janitors don't have guns.

BarkGrowlBite said...

Anon 07:12 PM, you've shown yourself to be the dumb, police-hating asshole you are. Most police agencies now require their recruits to have at least two years of college, if not a four-year degree.

Anonymous said...

Who requires a 4 year degree to be a cop? Austin and Fort Worth only require a highschool diploma or GED, Dallas and Houston ask for four semesters of college but don't require a degree and there is a lengthy list of exceptions to that condition.

We might be better off if all those officers needed the same education as a Second Lieutenant... But then again maybe not :/

Anonymous said...

That 5th grade level of competency is hard to reach. So many despise learning and absorb very little no matter how many years they sullenly endure a classroom.

Anonymous said...

All inmates coming up for parole should have computer training in order to apply for job applications., especially if they have completed their GED!!! TBCJ just want to see them fail and come back to prison to get free work from them. Any inmate assigned to work should get a decent wage paid to them.

Also, now that the phone rates have dropped, more phones should be installed in each prison for the inmates. Waiting for days for an inmate to get access to a phone to call their loved ones, is terrible TDCJ need to step up and do the right thing!!!!!
All these things going on is unacceptable and a disgrace that shows the State of Texas is a total disgrace!!!!!

Anonymous said...


Much of the criticism leveled here against Texas should really be directed at the federal system. Texas has much more on the ball as it concerns helping offenders transition than the BOP, which has 117 institutions and no agreed upon methodology for delivering consistent educational resources to offenders. Central leadership is totally absent there, where in Texas there is strong leadership.

It is easy to complain, but compare things carefully and Texas does a lot for offenders.

Anonymous said...

"We don't suck as bad as that guy" is not the same as "good job."

Gary Packwood said...

Chairman John Whitmire’s question of computer proficiency among inmates is a Red Herring ~ a diversion ~ trotted out in an emergency and not related to the topic of reading and math competency being discussed. And Dr. Carpenter had to know that, but he probably couldn’t do anything about it.

Hopefully Dr. Carpenter will be given permission to assess a fee from school districts whose former students ~ especially those with a diploma ~ end up in TDCJ with serious academic shortcomings. Those funds could be used to employ specialists ~ usually clinicians ~ to work with inmates who need help desperately, especially in reading.
The process of helping inmates with reading difficulty starts with formal test which are a way of comparing a TDCJ inmate with other people of the same age. There are many tests available. The clinician tries to choose those that will give the information needed about a person's problem. Later, if the person is enrolled in classroom work or therapy, the clinician will do more tests to determine which specific skills to teach. Formal tests are designed to get a sample of the person's skills on various kinds of tasks, including:

1. Receptive vocabulary – What words does the person understand?
2. Expressive vocabulary – What words does the person use?
3. Receptive grammar – How well does the person understand different language forms?
4. Expressive grammar – What language forms can the person use? Plurals for example.
5. Auditory memory – How well does the person remember what is heard?
6. Auditory discrimination – Can the person hear small differences between words?
7. Word-finding – How well does the person think of words to use?

I would be especially concerned with number 7 above - Word-Finding. An angry twenty-year-old male with Word-Finding problems is an explosion waiting to happen.

I compliment Dr. Carpenter on the work he is doing and his dedication to providing the facts needed to offer first-rate educational programming for inmates.

GRANDMOM said...

Off the topic. Visiting Polunski yesterday, I discovered that as we speak, during a regularly scheduled lockdown, which will continue at least 2 more weeks, the guards are confiscating legal materials - that's everything - trial transcripts, everything. The new rule, dictated by the new,very young warden, says that legal materials must be in a special box, or will be confiscated. Only (catch 22) THEY FAIL TO PROVIDE THE BOXES)