ABC Literacy

The L.I.F.E Program

The L.I.F.E program is featured in the documentary film How Do You Spell Murder?, by Academy Award winning film makers Alan and Susan Raymond. For more information about the film visit their site at

A Literacy Program Run by Inmates
The success of the L.I.F.E. (Learning Is For Everyone) program is due to the involvement of the inmates and their sense of ownership of the program. Inmates volunteer to tutor their fellow inmates for a two-hour session once a week. Each tutor is trained and certified by the Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA) as a certified reading instructor. LVA educators Robert and Anne McCleery hold classes to instruct inmate tutors on the best methods of instruction for adult literacy students. The L.I.F.E. inmate managers then match these tutors with students to begin their tutor-student sessions. Anne McCleery, LVA educator, affirms:
"My husband and I teach in many prison literacy programs and often see those programs dissolve. The L.I.F.E. Program is unique because the men are very dedicated and manage a consistently high quality program that has lasted these many years."

The L.I.F.E. Program was the first literacy program in the New Jersey prison system to use community and prisoner volunteers and has become a model for other literacy programs. The Program continues to tutor 44 students with 46 tutors and has a wait list for both new tutors and students. The L.I.F.E. managers have also assisted fellow Hispanic inmates to establish H.A.P., a Hispanic literacy program. The managers have published a detailed manual with instructions and suggestions on managing the specifics of the program, recruiting tutors and community volunteers, fund-raising and publicity, and maintaining a relationship with prison officials. It is the hopes of the founders and managers that other correctional institutions will establish their own inmate-run literacy program.