The Books Behind Bars program has been the subject of a research study conducted with assistance from UVA’s Curry School of Education. This study, called Awakening Youth Through the Humanities, is helping us to identify the benefits of the program to both incarcerated youth, also called “residents,” and university students. The study’s findings thus far, based on data collected between 2011 and 2012, have been markedly positive, indicating that the program has a meaningful impact on both university students and residents, and that the program’s innovative methodology has the potential to benefit higher education as a whole.
The findings have indicated that the residents experienced gains in their academic, social and personal development. For instance, residents who participated in the Books Behind Bars program reported an increased interest in attending college, and at least two former residents are now enrolled in college. The findings also suggest improvement in residents’ impulse control and decision-making skills. Finally, the program appears to be having an impact on residents’ moral development by increasing their ability to distinguish right from wrong, and increasing their capacity to analyze human situations with empathy and nuance.
The research also suggests that the program is having a profound impact on the university student participants. Students report that the program is helping them to develop professional leadership skills, including diplomacy, relationship-building, planning, and creative problem-solving skills. They also say that the program is helping them to clarify, and in some cases rethink, their career objectives. After participating in the program a number of students have decided to dedicate their lives to working with at-risk youth, or to pursue teaching as a career. Students also report that the program is revitalizing their love of literature, and deepening their appreciation of the value of a humanities education to their own lives and the lives of others.
LEARN MORE ABOUT BOOKS BEHIND BARS
How Our Program Is Changing Lives
Research on the Books Behind Bars Program
What the At-Risk Juveniles Are Saying
What the University Students Are Saying
Expansion Plans and How You Can Help