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September 17, 2014
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Opinion

Editorial: Books turn page for prisoners

Campaigns to educate prisoners by organizations like IC Save the Books present a method of reducing prison populations with little cost to taxpayers.

A group of Ithaca College students formed a new organization, IC Save the Books, in January with the purpose of  improving education among inmates in New York by donating books to prisoners.

IC Save the Books is following in the footsteps of the former Ithaca-based activist group Books Thru Bars, which dissolved in December because of a lack of volunteers. Despite what may seem like community disinterest, the efforts of IC Save the Books to educate inmates could contribute greatly to prison reform efforts in Tompkins County.

According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, more than 60 percent of prison inmates cannot read beyond a basic level. An August 2013 Rand Corporation study also showed that prisoners who participate in educational programs while incarcerated are 43 percent less likely to become repeat offenders. Creating educational initiatives in prisons may slow growth of the U.S. prison population, which more than quadrupled between 1980 and 2000, according to the Justice Policy Institute.

Some people who stand against prison reform argue that prisoners don’t deserve a subsidized education when college students in the general population are swimming in debt.

Regardless, organizations like IC Save the Books provide education to prisoners, and thereby potentially help reduce the prison population, without funneling money into prisons. Book donations can help improve literacy with no cost to taxpayers.

Greater participation in organizations, like IC Save the Books, that attempt to remedy prisoner education, could contribute one of many initiatives needed to solve America’s prison problems.