prisoner with dyslexia

Dyslexia and Prisons, Is There A Correlation?

If you weren’t aware, there is more and more reason to believe there is a very strong connection between those who have dyslexia and those who end up in prison. Even just a peripheral thought allows us to see how that would play out.

You’re a child, undiagnosed, who grows increasingly frustrated in school because you cannot read. Those around you continue to succeed, and no level of extra effort is getting you anywhere. On top of that, many call you stupid, lazy, and place the onus of your inability to read and keep up on you and your effort, which in the case of dyslexia, is of course not true at all.

With no remediation, and feeling increasingly hopeless, what incentive does a child have to continue along in a system that’s neither helping, and quite possibly creating overwhelming anxiety from its ignorance? Were this still an era of trade-based careers, a child may find a healthy outlet in one of those paths. But for many low-income areas, and especially in our college and higher-education focused culture, drugs and crime are the most likely outcome.

If you think that’s a doomsday exaggeration, you need to read about Ameer Baraka. He’s a force in the dyslexia community, and what I spoke of above is pretty much exactly how his life played out.

Unfortunately, for those like him, there hasn’t been much in the way of large-scale studies for inmates with reading disabilities, which has contributed to the difficulties in getting the First Step Act moving. It is moving, but not fast enough, nor does it have the full support it needs.

The “First Step Act will require federal prisons to screen for dyslexia at intake, and to provide services that will help people learn to read if they are diagnosed.” –

This would obviously be an amazing new path forward if the connection of dyslexia and prisons is true. Even without a large scale study, though, if we know nearly 1 in 5 have dyslexia, and we have smaller studies done for dyslexics in prison that show an incredibly high amount of illiteracy among inmates, it seems very, very plausible that if we can get to these kids sooner, we can thus reduce the incarceration rate.

Life is obviously complicated, and the variables that shape one’s choices can never come down to, “If we fix this, THEN all will be okay.” But if you can help a child read, to give them the tools to compete in an education driven society, to understand they are not dumb, stupid, useless, lazy, or anything of the sort, and in fact have strengths others do not possess, how can that NOT have an impact?

For more about Ameer, the latest on the First Step Act, and a deeper look on what is known about the connections between prison and dyslexia, check out this great article by SAMANTHA MICHAELS on

Here’s the link:

CREDIT: Photo from // LightFieldStudios/iStock/Getty

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