Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Inmate Tutors Help Inmate Students to Read

By Lt. Gregory Bergersen, Public Information Officer, Valley State Prison for Women

Two dozen inmates at Valley State Prison for Women (VSPW) meet every Monday morning with Ms. Cindy Greer, Literacy Coordinator, to get their work assignments for the week.  In a way, they are teachers, too.

The 24 inmates are literacy tutors for 300 other VSPW inmates who are voluntarily taking classes to become better readers and successfully complete General Education Degree (GED) requirements and tests. 

Ms. Cindy Greer, Literacy Coordinator (front row, right of center and wearing red) sits with inmates volunteers
Beginning in July 2010, Greer created a successful literacy program using inmate tutors to make the most efficient use of her classroom time as the ranks of full time professional teachers were being reduced. The inmate candidates must file a written application for the tutoring positions, which is followed by an interview to determine their ability to do the job.  Selected inmates complete 15 hours of specialized training that leads to certification in the Laubach reading method, a 60 year old, phonics based curriculum developed primarily for adults with little or no reading ability. 

Each inmate tutor works one on one with inmates who have TABE scores of 0.0 to 9.0 or with groups of inmate who have TABE scores higher than 9.0 and those studying to complete the GED test.  Each housing unit at VSPW converted a game room into a miniature classroom for tutoring and the tutors must maintain a full caseload by recruiting other inmate students for the program. 
“This program gives students who have never been successful in reading an opportunity to succeed,” said Greer. “Furthermore, the program has continuity because if an inmate moves from one facility to another, the program follows her by way of another tutor”.  

“This is a great program,” added VSPW Warden Walter Miller.  “Ms. Greer has done so much to lift the confidence of the tutors and the inmate students.  We have seen great success with this volunteer program.”  

The tutors are so successful that 40% of VSPW’s most recent graduates earned their GED certificates with the help of Greer’s inmate tutors.