Of those young people I have taught who have had subsequent prison convictions, all but one had low levels of literacy. The nature of the link between poor literacy and criminal conviction is clear when one examines the literacy rate of those behind bars in the UK. It is not a simple causal link but there is some correlation between poor literacy and descent into criminal activity.
It would be interesting to see if the same connection is true in other countries.
It is somewhat disturbing that more research is not being conducted in this area, as this IOE report points out…
‘When I learned to read at the age of 16 I suddenly got in touch with education, with the chance of becoming a different kind of boy. Not the one always in trouble with the police. But someone who could in the end make the most of myself. Get behind literacy and you get behind social justice and social opportunity’.
So starts the press release announcing the launch of a new campaign from Big Issue founder John Bird to highlight the importance of literacy and education for people in prison called ‘Right to Read (and write)’. The exciting bit for me was that Bird had noticed my continuing complaint about the lack of any real data about prisoners’ literacy and numeracy levels. John’s press release continues:
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