Prison Programs Deserving Of Honorable Mention: Frog Gravy 52

If you are newly diagnosed with blindness and wish to read a book, menu or map in braille, who was the translator for the book, map or menu?

If you are in need of a vested service dog to assist you at all times in your daily living, who trained that dog?

Who are the men and women caring for babies born in captivity to inmate mothers in Kentucky?

Three programs at KCIW PeWee Valley Women’s Penitentiary are worthy of mention: the braille translation program, the Paws With Purpose program, and the Galilean Children’s Home.

In association with the American Printing House for the blind, KCIW inmates translate print materials into braille. I had a fascinating conversation with an inmate who was involved in braille translation; she had advanced her expertise such that she was currently working on map translation.

There are about thirty such programs nationwide. At KCIW, some of the women are certified literary transcribers through the National Library Service of the Library of Congress. If you come across a braille textbook, there is a chance that an inmate did the transcribing.

To qualify for admission into the braille program at KCIW, an inmate must meet honor status, but also must be quite a ways from meeting with the parole board. The learning-intensive program takes time and so, inmates participating in the program are serving lengthy sentences.

My eight-year sentence was so long it was absurd (my judge sentenced a knife-point cab driver robber to less time than me), yet not long enough to gain admission into one of the learning-intensive training programs. In other words, my sentence length was problematic because it was too long for some things and not long enough for others, leaving me in a void. Hence, it is actually possible to be jealous of people serving lengthy sentences. I really admired the women in these programs.

The Paws With Purpose puppy prison program is another wonderful intensive program, where women train service dogs. Barkley, the doodle, was one such dog, too cute for words. The dogs stay with the inmate trainers pretty much around the clock during the week. Sometimes the dogs take breaks to go into the community with volunteer program trainers, so the dogs can be exposed to traffic, malls and the like. Usually the dogs-in-training on the KCIW campus are vested, which means that inmates other than the trainer are not allowed to touch, pet or play with the dogs.

Again, an inmate must be something like two to five years to the parole board (I am not sure which) and must have attained honor status. Honor status is achieved through good behavior over a long period, and has perks such as desired housing in Pine Bluff Dormitory, as well as eligibility to apply for admission to programs such as Paws With Purpose of the braille translation program.

The Galilean Children’s Home (video above) is a wonderful program, supported by private donation and non-profit, that was founded by Mennonite couple Jerry and his late wife Sandy Tucker.

Babies born to inmate mothers at KCIW are often cared for in the Angel House division of the large Galilean Children’s Home, which also houses and cares for other orphaned children.

Each week, the women of the Galilean Home, which is located in Liberty Kentucky, Casey County, bring the babies to a visiting nursery in the chapel at the prison, for a bonding session with the inmate mothers. Please have a look at the video, as I believe this program is unique to Kentucky.

We need more programs such as these, but unfortunately they seem to be disappearing. Kentucky is turning jails into prisons, in the name of money, and warehousing Class D nonviolent offenders in cement with no programs, so they return to the community with nothing but a new criminal skill set in hand. Would it not make more sense to have inmates parole to the community with job skills and references in hand? Would it not make more sense for a Class D nonviolent offender to be able to state, proudly, that she had given something back to the community during incarceration? That she had put some thought and work into goals and planning for the second part of her life?

One of my goals is to get books into jails and prisons, but this will be difficult because some Kentucky jails ban educational materials outright, as I have previously mentioned. It makes absolutely no sense to ban education to the largest incarcerated population that will parole into the community the soonest: Class D nonviolent offenders.


Braille Translation Program in conjunction with KCIW.

Paws With Purpose prison puppy program.

The wonderful Galilean Home.

Andrew Wolfson, Courier-Journal on Professor Robert Lawson’s article about Kentucky turning jails into prisons.

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