National Prison Braille Network: Building Bridges with Braille

Building Bridges with Braille Corrections and vision professionals meet each year at the National Prison Braille Forum to share their expertise and learn from others.

APH launched a braille production facility in a women's prison in Kentucky in 2000 in cooperation with the prison and Kentucky Correctional Industries. Partners in this venture, called KCI Braille Services, began learning first- hand about the complexities of operating a business behind prison walls and experienced many unanticipated challenges. Managed today by Jan Carroll, APH braille transcription services coordinator, and Holly Faris Woolums, production coordinator for Kentucky Correctional Industries at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women, KCI Braille Services employs up to 15 women and produces thousands of pages of braille each year.

Shortly after launching KCI Braille Services, APH learned that this was not the only braille production facility operating in the U.S. We hosted the first National Prison Braille Forum in conjunction with Annual Meeting in 2001, primarily to learn about existing programs, and to learn from their experience. Approximately 20 people attended that first meeting, and on average, 40 people interested in prison braille programs have attended this annual gathering each year since.

There are currently over 35 prison braille programs across the country, and most focus their efforts on producing textbooks for braille readers in grades K-12. Many of these programs will be represented at the upcoming Forum by either vision professionals, corrections professionals, or both. Typically, several "alumni" of these programs—former inmates who have been released from prison and now produce braille on the outside—will attend and share their experience with the network.

Anyone interested in learning about prison braille programs or starting a program is invited and encouraged to attend the 10th Annual National Prison Braille Forum, but advance reservations are required by September 17. For information or to register, contact Becky Snider at rsnider@aph.org, (800)223-1839 ext. 356, or (502)899-2356.

Transforming Lives One Cell at a Time:
One Disadvantaged Population Helps Another

Nancy Lacewell

In recent years, an increasing number of braille production facilities have been established in prisons as a direct response to the growing need for educational materials in braille, especially textbooks. This subject is thoroughly explored by APH's Nancy Lacewell and Hollie Farris, of Kentucky Correctional Industries, in their commentary that is appearing in Corrections Today, a national publication. Nancy says, "I hope the article will help get more support for prison braille programs and offenders reentering society. These programs truly are life-changing."

Here is the link to the full article: http://aca.org/fileupload/177/ahaidar/Lacewell_Faris.pdf

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