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Improving Learning Inside Folsom Prison

Photo of an entrance

Learning for All

"Everyone is entitled to an education," says Pearson's Erin Smith. "Some of us just come to different opportunities at different stages in life."

Erin has spearheaded a project along with colleagues LeeAnne Fisher and Kathryn Bass to put several dozen Pearson classroom e-books in the hands of about 300 inmates at California's Folsom Prison. She's working with tech company Innertainment Delivery Systems (IDS) to deliver these books digitally on secure, controlled tablets.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) uses these eReaders for inmates working towards credits in college courses across the state's prison system through something called the Voluntary Education Program, or VEP. The CDCR reports:

"At a recent focus group with the first cohort of inmates to use the eReaders for college courses, many of them agreed that the eReader has not only encouraged them to continue to take courses but it has also piqued the interest of other inmates who are unable to afford college textbooks."

Using a Tablet for the First Time

"A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Education outlined a recommended plan for the rehabilitation of inmates prior to their release," Erin Smith says. The plan suggested using "advanced technologies."

Folsom Books

"Technology is a lot cheaper for cash-strapped state prison systems," Erin says. "It also helps these inmates with tech skills that could smooth their re-entry process once they leave prison."

"Some of these inmates are using a tablet for the first time," she says.

Classes While Incarcerated

Pearson book titles are being used inside Folsom starting this month.

tablet

"It's a project we could easily replicate to prison systems across the country," Erin says. "It's something Pearson should be doing because it's a reminder that learning can flourish in the most unsuspecting places."

The CDCR says "in the case of current inmates attending college classes while incarcerated, it dramatically reduces the likelihood he/she will reoffend once back in society."

'What Else Can We Do?'

"So many people just didn't get the opportunities I had," Erin says. "My mom drove me to school, dad drove me to basketball practice—it was understood that I was going to college."

"This Folsom project is a good reason to come to work today," Erin says. "Since we've done this, it makes me wonder: What else can we do?"