The Unaffected

At a very young age, we are taught how to read and write. We learn to form words as we learn our a-b-c’s. We learn to read as we slowly sound out c-a-t. Over time, words turn into sentences and sounds turn into connections. Before we realize it, a whole new world opens up to us. Can you imagine a life without words? A life without stories?

When we are young emerging readers, perhaps we smile as we read the lilting words of Dr. Seuss:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.”

As we grow into intermediate readers, perhaps we stop to think when we read the stirring words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

And, perhaps as we develop into experienced readers, we are moved to action when we hear the unwavering words of Benjamin Franklin:

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

If you are reading this right now, you are more fortunate than approximately 70% of the incarcerated population, who can’t read much above a fourth grade education.

You are among the “unaffected.”

Why is literacy so important – especially among the incarcerated population? Literacy and recidivism rates are directly related. The higher the literacy rate, the lower the recidivism rate. A recent study reported that “those who had received correctional education had 43 percent lower odds of reoffending than inmates who did not.”

Literacy skills also open up better employment opportunities to an already discriminated against population. “According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, 70% of all incarcerated adults cannot read at a 4th grade level, ‘meaning they lack the reading skills to navigate many everyday tasks or hold down anything but lower paying jobs.’ Data supports that those without sufficient income earned by work are the most prone to crime. Paul Romero, a correction official once noted, ‘With legal means of succeeding in society narrowed, illiteracy is heavily implicated in the crimes landing many behind bars in the first place.’”

Furthermore, the Department of Justice stated, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.”

The link between insufficient literacy levels and crime, violence, and incarceration is clear.

It is our responsibility – as the “unaffected” – to bring relief to those who are “affected.”

Whether delivered in the lilting words of Dr. Seuss, the stirring words of Martin Luther King Jr., or the motivational words of Benjamin Franklin, the message remains the same:

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

It is up to you.

It is up to me.

It is up to all of us.

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