• Poverty Services an agency of Catholic Charities of Southern Illinois, Diocese of Belleville, IL through the leadership of Michael Schuette has developed the Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates program. This inmate literacy program was initiated over 10 years ago in the IDOC Centralia Correctional Center and later in Big Muddy Correctional. Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates encourages literate inmates to tutor reading impaired inmate students while in prison. Inmate students quickly realize they can learn to read and thereby break their cycle of poverty by being able to apply for jobs and continue to learn new skills. The inmate tutor also gains confidence and the realization they can significantly help others. This is a win-win situation.
  • The IDOC recognizes that the inmate tutors have been up to 96% successful based on data in helping inmate students learn to read (averaging about 500 inmates per year). Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates is the #1 program in the United States to advance the inmate reading skills.
  •  IDOC is currently working to roll-out the Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates program to all Illinois State prisons over the next 3 years and the IDOC letter of support by Gladyse Taylor, IDOC Assistant Director indicates the need and success that can be achieved in reading literacy.

December 26, 2016

(Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC), Springfield, IL)

Re: A Letter in Support of SOARING INMATES HELPING INMATES in the Illinois Department of Corrections

Studies who individuals who do not have adequate reading skills are unlikely to keep (must less get) a job paying gainful living wages and benefits. There is is a direct correlation between reading impairment, unemployment, and poverty. Approximately, 23% of our general public in Illinois are reading impaired and 70% of those imprisoned in Illinois are reading impaired. In addition, some 61% of residents in our poorest counties are reading impaired. The inmates’ gainful employment challenge is compounded with a prison record. Studies show if inmates do not start learning to read while in the correctional center they are highly likely to repeat offend.

The purpose of this letter is to encourage your support of SOARING INMATES HELPING INMATES of Illinois. This very low cost, long tested program is the most successful program in the USA to help up to 96% of impaired inmates advance their reading skills. SOARING INMATES HELPING INMATES also includes a “returning citizen” component to continue education, along with job training upon release from imprisonment. The success of the program is attributable to the “peer-to-peer” concept of encouraging literate inmates to tutor illiterate inmate students.

SOARING INMATES HELPING INMATES will substantially increase the likelihood that most Illinois inmates will break their cycles of poverty and imprisionment. Most never realize they could read with no idea to what they were missing and now amazingly learn to read in just weeks. Like the blind who could not see, they quickly realize many new doors are open to them and excitedly advance multiple grades each year. Just as importantly, the inmate tutors gain a feeling of worth and self-esteem as their unique abilities reach and change inmate students’ lives forever. Inmate recidivism rates will decline substantially. The IDOC has committed to permit, support, and assist the advancement of SOARING INMATES HELPING INMATES into all Illinois state prison correctional centers.

Of course all of this is very important to the inmates (who are societies’ most disenfranchised citizens). But just as importantly, reduced inmates recidivism also reduces costs to law enforcement, court systems, the general public, and will significantly reduce IDOC costs. Most everyone knows the IDOC is the second highest budget line item cost to the State of Illinois, second only to pensions. The change to inmate lives comes so quickly and easily, is needed, and lowers cost. Why didn’t we realize this option sooner? Nearly everyone stands to gain from this program and hopefully everyone will help!

Respectfully Submitted, 
Gladyse Taylor
Assistant Director
Department of Corrections


Catholic Charities of Southern Illinois: Poverty Services Agency

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This Chinese proverb of “lifetime changes” is part of our mission of systemic change. Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates empowers the imprisoned to take charge of their own future and responsibility for their own economic advancement:

  • Our own personal caring, respect, and hope for the individual potential;
  • Our requiring the individual’s personal motivation and initiative;
  • All combined with our addressing social reform necessary to assist individuals in escaping cycles of imprisonment, unempoyment, and poverty; and
  • Encouragement of a combined effort of local agencies and organizations to help those who want to help themselves address the root causes of their cycle of poverty or imprisionment to thereby become gainfully employed and their lives changed forever.
  • Quickly AND FOREVER change the lives of the imprisioned,
  • Reduce prisioners’ sentence length,
  • Help reduce reading impaired inmate recidivism by over 40% (which over time significantly reduces IDOC populations and costs),
  • Reduce State law enforcement and court costs,
  • Help reduce general public harm by crime, and
  • Significantly address our State of Illinois financial crisis.

Significant Benefits of Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates to Correctional Facilities:

  • The average inmate is in the Illinois correctional center for 6 months. Timing is everything if we indeed endeavor to have effective “correctional centers.” The two correctional centers utlizing Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates for over 10 years are #1 and #2 in the U.S. in advancing inmate literacy skills and make Illinois a national leader in literacy advancement.
  • In spite of IDOC budget cuts Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates helps correctional centers continue both legislative mandatory low reading level inmate literacy classes as well as help reading impaired inmates eventually qualify to access correctional center trade classes.
  • The inmate tutors are also trained to be teacher aides in all of the instructional classes provided by the correctional facilities. The tutor/teacher’s aides are very necessary to keep these classes going while faced with numerous paid staff State budget cuts.
  • Not only the inmate tutors and students are inspired and changed-for-life. The IDOC-paid education staff who, because of State budget constraints, have been saddled with the impossible task of helping hundreds of inmates learn to read….now, with the assistance of inmate tutor/teacher aides the staff are credited with managing the most successful inmate literacy advancement programs in the country. Credit deserved!

Significant Benefits to Inmates as Returning Citizens to the State of Illinois General Public:

  • Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates is life-changing for the students! Because they had never dreamed they would be able to read, they are overwhelmed with the excitement that they can now read. The fact is many doors will be open for them now they can read (everything from the internet, employment policies, prayer books, and hymnals).
  • Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates is life-changing for inmate tutors as well. These inmate tutors realize they are actually helping their peers to learn to read, and it gives tutors a sense of worth and merit. Now all they want is to continue to significantly help others for the rest of their lives!
  • Even more powerful, Soaring Eagle Wings Inmate Re-Entry programs will continue student reading tutoring and advancement, and assist inmate tutors with employment opportunities. Soaring Eagle Wings will add individual assessment and appropriate job skill training to tutors upon release from correctional centers.
  • Reference for more information on Soaring Inmates Helping Inmates at www.povertyservices.weebly.com