How To Design The Right Size Prison

Do you know how they determine how big to build a new prison? They look at the number of third and fourth graders who are reading below grade level. There is a direct correlation between lack of educational achievement and later criminal behavior. That's what the first black District Attorney in Wisconsin recently told an audience of concerned citizens. How did he know? He had previously worked in the state's Corrections Department.

Meanwhile here in Camden, the high school graduation rate last year was only 49% and an astounding 23 of the school district's 26 schools appeared on a list of the 75 worst in the state. Department of Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf spoke of possible state intervention to address “persistent pockets of academic failure.”

At Fellowship House we aren’t waiting for government to fix the problems. Instead, we struggle every day to tear down prison walls by helping disadvantaged kids to learn the basics necessary to succeed in life. Public schools in the city do their best, but they need help, and we are there with after school and summer programs that focus on basic skills. During the school year, we provide tutors to work one-on one with students who are struggling. Last year we introduced a reading program to give the children practice reading and to develop a love for reading.

In addition, Fellowship House provides something absolutely essential for successful living—a loving supportive community rooted in the gospel message of God's love in Christ. As Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Experience confirms that by the 4th grade, a child’s ways are already established. As important as it is for children to master the 3 R’s, it is even more critical that they develop character traits such as honesty, integrity, caring, responsibility and respect. Fellowship House provides a protective, loving environment where kids learn what it takes to grow up into what God intends each one of them to be.

Do the pictures at the top of this story look like the faces of the prison inmate class of 2033? A lot depends on you and I. We have an opportunity to change that outcome. Four years of reading instruction and four years of character building can make all the difference. Want to invest in our children? Make a gift to Fellowship House today!

Doug WagnerComment