Sunday, 12 May 2019 10:00

Literacy tutors sought for reading impaired inmate students

Written by TERRY TUTTLE and MIKE SCHUETTE

At Mass we hear verses like Matthew 25:36: “I was in prison and you visited me” and Luke 4:18: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives … .” Have you been waiting for an invitation?

The Diocese of Springfield in Illinois has been asked to partner with the Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, in expanding a correctional literacy program throughout our diocese. The SOARING Inmates Helping Inmates (SIHI) program assists offenders helping other offenders to read at a higher level. We are in search of teachers, active and retired, and librarians and education administrators. Since these volunteer literacy aides serve as “teachers to teach teachers,” they could possibly be graduate or doctorial students needing placement for real life experience to teach the qualified inmates to become literacy tutors of reading impaired inmate students.

Teachers are real heroes who have the power to transform people’s lives through knowledge and encouragement. This transformation is made tangible in the Illinois Correctional System when inmates help other inmates succeed in life. The Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) has a current offender population of some 46,000. Seventy percent (32,000) are reading impaired. Reading impairment is a root cause of poverty, as it impedes gainful employment. Eighty percent of these inmates who leave prisons without learning how to read will repeat offend and return to prison. We all pay the $35,000 per year per offender cost in taxes. Only 12 percent of inmates who do learn to read while in the IDOC do repeat offend.

The “peer-to-peer” design of SOARING Inmates Helping Inmates is key to this No. 1 program in United States is to help 97 percent of inmates advance. Our unique workbooks enable most inmates to advance up to five grades (to sixth grade) within a year. SOARING Inmates Helping Inmates doesn’t just benefit the offenders themselves, but helps the larger society, and could even ease state budget problems. Reduced inmate recidivism also reduces law enforcement costs; court costs — and reduces harm to our general public.

Can you help? The Springfield diocese seeks voluntary literacy aides for one or two days a month to change cycles of unemployment, poverty and imprisonment.

We seek part-time volunteer literacy aides (with some background in education) for just one or two days a month to assist testing and advancement of inmate students. We need at least one volunteer literacy aide for each Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) adult correctional center in our diocese, but really hope to obtain two or three for each institution. (Many hands make light work!) It is best but not necessary that the volunteer literacy aide lives near a correctional center. Our program staff will train and assist the voluntary literacy aide.

If you are able to help expand this important program please contact Michael Schuette of SOARING Inmates Helping Inmates at or Terry Tuttle, Springfield diocese correctional chaplain at .