Considering that “seventy percent of all inmates are functionally illiterate”, increased literacy skills may be the most valuable educational experiences for incarcerated individuals and ex-offenders. People & Stories / Gente y Cuentos helps prison/re-entry audiences improve reading, vocabulary, writing skills, and critical thinking skills, helping clients get their lives back on track and then stay on track as they transition back into their communities. We have a long-term and successful record of working with clients of correctional facilities including Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, New Jersey State Prison, Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility, Albert C. Wagner Youth Correctional Facility, Edna Mahon Correctional Facility for Women, Bo Robinson Education and Training Center, and Rescue Mission of Trenton.
People & Stories / Gente y Cuentos is uniquely positioned because our program refines not only the core skills that prison/re-entry clients need for their success, but also encourages reflection upon life choices from the past and new directions for the future. Because the stories we read invite participants to examine situations involving struggle, conflict, triumph, and hope, people begin probing and questioning their own lives more profoundly.
We invite the whole person to deepen awareness, to change and to grow, using the literary story as both a mirror of life and a window onto new possibilities. This brings hope, a core ingredient to support successful re-entry. Our method, an oral reading, critical discussion, and writing about short stories encourages participants to develop skills that are essential to pursuing productive and fulfilling lives. We do not duplicate the services of literacy providers, who focus on the how to read. Rather, we focus on the why.
 “Behind Bars But Still Human: Education as the Key to Rehabilitation,” Conference, Princeton, NJ, October 2007.
For further reading:
“Why Literature in Prison” by Jean Trounstine, Professor of Humanities at Middlesex Community College in Lowell, Mass.
“Why Literature? The Power of Stories” by Robert Waxler, Professor of English at University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth and co-founder of “Changing Lives Through Literature.”