The goal of the Frames Prison Program is to increase literacy rates, reduce recidivism, and use storytelling to empower incarcerated persons within the US prison system. Through our graphic memoir course, we work with individuals to develop their storytelling skills, promote literacy, spark critical thinking, and help them grow through self-reflection.
Illiteracy and Criminal Behavior
There is a clear link between illiteracy and criminal activity. When education is limited, many people take desperate measures to make ends meet. Two-thirds of children who struggle with reading by the fourth grade will engage in criminal activity, becoming part of a cycle of incarceration and recidivism that can last a lifetime. In the US prison system, more than 70% of inmates struggle with literacy and over 45% are lacking in functional literacy. That’s more than double the average illiteracy rate among American adults.
Breaking the Cycle
Despite these stark statistics, there is hope: while low literacy rates are correlated with poverty and crime, studies show that inmates who engage in literacy programs are 50% less likely to reoffend. Brink believes that increasing literacy within the prison population is absolutely crucial to empowering the individuals and communities most heavily affected by incarceration.
In 2015, Brink began conducting extensive training and research to develop its prison curriculum. We began teaching the Frames Prison Program in the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility in fall 2017. The comic medium we teach in this graphic memoir course acts as a bridge to engage reluctant readers with reading and writing, while the act of telling one’s story enables shifts in identity and rehabilitative progress that remain untouched by other more common practices.
By helping students to transform a single turning point in their lives into a short graphic memoir, this program seeks to:
- Introduce storytelling as a means of positive self-expression
- Engage learners in creative and flexible education that unlocks their boundless potential
- Strengthen the reading and writing skills of each participant regardless of current proficiency
- Empower inmates to reflect on their lives, assess important past decisions, and set positive goals for the future
- Share student work within a safe group as well as with the greater community
- Build students’ individual skillsets as they learn components of graphic design, writing, self-expression, analysis, and problem-solving skills that will help them achieve their own personal and economic goals
- Revolutionize the way in which literacy is approached and taught, especially within low-literacy, underrepresented populations
Prison Comic Anthology
The culmination of the Frames Prison Program will be a collection of graphic short stories. By pairing each student with a celebrity comic editor, writer, and artist, we will bring the best stories from the program to life and hand participants physical evidence of their growth throughout the program.
With the publication of this book, we aim to increase awareness about the effects of illiteracy and shine a light on the often-overlooked population of incarcerated people in the United States. Funds from the book will also allow for the expansion of education programs in prisons throughout the country, fund scholarships for inmates, enhance prison libraries, and provide vital resources to help end the cycle of incarceration.
Brink Literacy Project would like to thank all the donors who made this program possible
Steve & Suzanne Hickox
Cat K. Huynh
Angela S. Lieurance
Antonio B. Ruiz
Alison Armstrong Silver
Joe St. Veltri