Literacy and Crime
Low literacy is linked to poor health, poverty, lack of community engagement and unemployment or under-employment. These factors can all lead to crime. Community investments in literacy can improve the lives of individuals of all ages, thus reducing crime:
- Family literacy programs give children a head start in literacy and help give parents the tools to both support their children and improve their own skills
- Youth literacy programs help keep youth engaged with learning thus paving the way for future options
- Adult literacy programs allow adults to build skills, improve employment prospects, meet workplace challenges and become more involved in their communities
- Literacy programs for inmates and parolees help them make and keep connections to community, improve employment opportunities, and learn new life skills
Strong literacy skills give people more options and can prevent people from engaging in criminal behavior. Literacy and learning opportunities can also help those involved with the justice system turn their lives around:
- 79% of male Canadian inmates lack a high school diploma, as do 71% of female inmates
- 70% of inmates tested at lower than a grade 8 literacy level
- Research in the 1990’s showed that inmates who completed Grade 10 through Adult Basic Education while behind bars were 21% less likely to be re-admitted to jail than inmates who had not 
Literacy and Justice
Literacy affects access to justice. People with low literacy may find it difficult to deal effectively with the justice system and receive fair treatment, whether they are a victim, perpetrator or witness of crime or civil injury. People with low literacy may hesitate to report crimes, may have challenges giving clear testimony, or may be seen by people in authority as being difficult. Literacy should never be a barrier to justice. For more information about justice and literacy, visit the Canadian Association of Chief’s of Police “Literacy and Police project or visit Decoda’s Literacy Library for resources and research assistance.
How Decoda Makes a Difference
Decoda supports BC’s literacy network. There are 102 task groups in 400 communities all across BC. These task groups bring together literacy stakeholders to share resources in order to meet the literacy needs of their communities. Because of this individual approach, the task groups are able to tackle the unique needs of their community. This community-building strategy helps build resilient, vibrant communities, naturally reducing crime. In additional to supporting literacy and the literacy network in British Columbia, Decoda has worked on various projects in legal services, policing and corrections. Contact us to learn more, and discuss how we can work with you.
1. Boe, Roger. A two year follow-up of federal offenders who participated in the Basic Adult Education (ABE) program. [Ottawa]: Correctional Service of Canada, 1998. p.vii. Available fromhttp://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2010/scc-csc/PS83-3-60-eng.pdf