High Point often considers itself the “red-headed step child” when it comes to Guilford County government, and, whenever Greensboro gets a county service, High Point wants that service too. This even holds true in the jails and now the High Point jail looks like it will finally get what by all accounts is a positive program that’s proven successful in the Greensboro jail – a new inmate literacy program meant to teach inmates better reading and communication skills.
The Guilford County Board of Commissioners is considering allocating $57,000 to establish the program in the High Point jail, with the money to be paid out of the county’s Inmate Welfare Fund. Most of that money comes from the fees that friends and family members pay when they accept collect calls from those who are incarcerated.
This move would take the county’s Inmate Welfare Fund from just over $639,000 to about $582,000.
If the commissioners approve the allocation, the adult literacy program – Reading Connections – will be available to inmates at the county jail in High Point, just as it is in the jail in Greensboro. Guilford County Sheriff’s Department staff say the program has been successful in improving literacy among inmates in Greensboro, and a pilot program was conducted with male inmates at the High Point jail last year – and that produced positive results.
This potential expansion of the literacy program is the latest in an effort to avoid recidivism among inmates held in the county’s two jails. In recent years Guilford County has adopted several programs to address drug use, mental health issues and other challenges common among inmates. The county’s 1,032-bed jail in downtown Greensboro, for instance, devotes areas to tutoring and to helping those with drug problems as well as those with mental health issues.
Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes said the reading program seems to really help inmates.
“It’s a great program,” he said. “It teaches them how to read and how to fill out a job application.”
Barnes said his department encourages reading and literacy among inmates but of course the books available in jail are a little limited.
“We don’t want anything that’s too risqué,” he said. “Also, we don’t allow hardbacks because they can be used as a weapon.”
Reading Connections is a nonprofit adult literacy agency that offers free and confidential training in Guilford County through the use of individual and small group sessions.