For incarcerated adults, serving a sentence is often just one of many hurdles to clear after a conviction. Whether navigating an appeal or adjusting to life upon release, understanding legal concepts and terms can prove to be a nearly-insurmountable challenge for these individuals, 70 percent of whom struggle to read at even a fourth-grade level.
With help from the Indianapolis Bar Foundation (IBF), local non-profit Indy Reads is tackling adult literacy issues, and specifically those that face individuals in our criminal justice system. Indy Reads has been named the 2016 recipient of the IBF’s Impact Fund of $35,000, allowing the organization to embark on a yearlong joint project that will deliver 10 to 20 legal literacy workshops to student inmates and the Indy Reads community.
“We are proud to announce that the recipient of the 2016 Impact Fund Grant is Indy Reads. Indy Reads will use the Impact Grant funds to expand their existing criminal justice literary curriculum to bring meaningful education on important legal concepts to the local prison population. The positive impact of this project will have a profound ripple effect even beyond incarcerated adults, spreading into the community as a whole,” says Andrew L. Campbell of Faegre Baker Daniels LLP and 2016 president of the Indianapolis Bar Foundation.
“We look forward to partnering with Indy Reads and the positive changes to be realized through their program. The Indianapolis Bar Foundation thanks its generous donors, sponsors, and Fellows, whose support, dedication, and active involvement have enabled us to effectuate meaningful impact for our city.”
Research has shown that increasing literacy can be a crucial component in reducing recidivism—16 percent of ex-offenders return to prison after receiving literacy help versus 70 percent who receive no help. This equates to taxpayer costs of $25,000 per inmate.
The project will be built upon the existing Indy Reads Criminal Justice literacy curriculum by adding this component, which does not currently exist. Providing essential legal education and knowledge of the justice system at the same time will help to empower student inmates to become better self-advocates and will increase the likelihood that they are able to comply with the court and understand the implications of failing to do so. Students in the program will better understand court documents and expectations for their hearings while improving their overall literacy.
Indy Reads and Indianapolis Bar Association volunteers will collaborate to develop the legal curriculum workshops, which will focus on vocabulary words and legal concepts. IndyBar volunteers will then educate inmates on general topics, like family, criminal, consumer, drug and finance law, helping to demystify concepts that are often foreign to the prison population. Case-specific legal advice will not be provided.
The project is scheduled to launch in January 2017, with volunteer opportunities and training sessions offered to IndyBar members both during the development of the project curriculum and when the workshops begin in correctional facilities and the Indy Reads office. Watch for details at indybar.org.
About the Indianapolis Bar Foundation & the Impact Fund
The Impact Fund began in 2011 as a vehicle to maximize the financial generosity of Indianapolis Bar Foundation donors and to provide members of the Indianapolis Bar Association with compelling opportunities to donate their time through pro bono service. Since its inception, $210,000 has been awarded through the fund to organizations like Peace Learning Center, the Joseph Maley Foundation, the Military Assistance Project of Indiana Legal Services Inc., Reach for Youth, and the Health and Human Rights Clinic at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in an effort to provide a significant positive impact in central Indiana through the promotion of access to justice for indigent persons.
The Impact Fund is an important tool in the foundation’s efforts to fulfill its mission: to advance justice and lead positive change in Indianapolis through philanthropy, education and service. In addition to the Impact Fund, the Indianapolis Bar Foundation grants $105,000 each year to a variety of community service programs co-sponsored with the Indianapolis Bar Association.
About Indy Reads
The mission of Indy Reads is to promote and improve the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana. Indy Reads provides free and confidential tutoring to adults who struggle with reading and writing. With the support of generous donors and more than 900 volunteers, the organization provided literacy services to over 1,300 adults in 2015. Indy Reads volunteers are trained to provide one-on-one tutoring services. Tutors also assist in small-group and classroom settings at community-based literacy labs, including criminal justice settings.•