Using digital literacy to prepare residents of correctional facilities for success

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In partnership with Charlotte Works and the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, Digital Charlotte has been conducting classes in correctional facilities to teach their residents the necessary digital and media literacy skills to thrive in an ever-changing, modern society. 

Charlotte Works is a workforce development board focused on preparing people for careers and connecting businesses with skilled workers. Anna London, Chief Operating Officer for Charlotte Works, is a part of the Charlotte Digital Inclusion Alliance.

The new Mecklenburg County sheriff, Garry L. McFadden, advocates for better programs for the residents of county correctional facilities. The programs range from this digital literacy program to more recreational time outside for youth residents of the facilities.

This summer, Bruce Clark, executive director of Digital Charlotte, and Alexandra Arrington, lead facilitator of Digital Charlotte, taught three programs, with two more scheduled for late summer and early fall. Each program includes 10 hours of instruction during a five-day period. Facility residents selected to participate are scheduled to be released within 90 days of the classes.

“They start on day one and learn the basics of a computer, the difference between hardware and software, and operating systems,” said Clark. “On the last day of the program, they’ve built the skills to store a resume on a Google drive, apply online for jobs, and mail their resume to potential employers after they’re released.

“We are setting them up for success and doing it in a way that is aspirational,” Clark said. “We’re not lowering the bar or teaching the content any differently because we’re inside the facility. In fact, we might even raise the bar and have a higher expectation because I believe, and we have seen time and time again, people will adapt to the expectations that they think you have of them. So if we think that they will succeed and have high expectations, then that’s the environment we want to create. 

“When we think about people returning to our communities, I think about ‘how do we prepare somebody for success’ rather than preparing them to have another failure. We need to equip them with skills to not only survive but thrive in our modern society, economy and democracy. Digital and media literacy are essential for them to do so.”

Photo above: Reporter Hillary Powell of Spectrum News produced a June 1, 2019 story on the Mecklenburg County digital literacy program. Powell interviewed resident Mardre’kez McClure.