Many Phila. Inmates Read At Second, Third Grade Levels


A test of reading skills among inmates in Philadelphia’s prison system yielded worse news than expected: 25 percent to 30 percent of prisoners read at a second- or third-grade level, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. The average reading level was at a fourth-grade mark, but city Prisons Commissioner Louis Giorla said he had thought the average was between a sixth- and eighth-grade level.With crowding issues dwindling as the prison population shrinks – a count that nearly three years ago was approaching 10,000 has dipped to under 8,000 – officials are refocusing attention on education and other areas key to helping inmates stay out of jail after their release. Average inmate math skills were at a fifth-grade level. Nonetheless, the low skills in both math and reading “give us an idea of what we’re up against,” Giorla said. He added that previously about 50 percent of inmates had indicated they had a high school diploma or a GED – a statistic he now believes is “a fallacy.” The results suggest the prison system may have to revamp its education programs, which currently focus largely on helping inmates earn or work toward high school diplomas, or the equivalent. Everett Gillison, deputy mayor for public safety, said he may seek funding to provide more educational programs from a donor who gave money to the city office overseeing reintegration services for ex-offenders.

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