Literacy program helps inmates learn valuable computer skills

December 24, 2016 GMT

A new program put in action by the Triangle Literacy Council promises to teach inmates and other underserved populations the valuable technology and computer skills they need to lead better lives.

A lot of us can’t imagine going through the day without using computers, but many people -- including some senior citizens, people without access to technology and inmates who have been in jail for years -- wouldn’t know where to start if they were placed in front of one.

To help these populations, educators with the Triangle Literacy Council are trying to bridge this digital divide and hopefully change lives along the way. With the help of a mobile computer lab, volunteers travel to senior centers, homeless shelters and other community centers to teach people the skills they need to find a job or stay connected with friends and family.


Google Fiber has contributed just over 1 million dollars to help fund the program in 11 cities. The funds will help the many groups benefiting from this program, including a group of inmates at the Wake County Detention Center.

The inmates are working to get ready for life after jail by learning about time management and brushing up on their literacy skills. In 2016, that means computer literacy, too.

“We’ve done literacy programs for many years, and now we’re branching out with the digital literacy program,” said James Butts, a digital inclusion fellow at Google Fiber.

Butts is a literacy skills instructor with the Triangle Literacy Council, and the funds contributed by Google Fiber allow his students to gain hands-on experience with computers in the mobile training lab.

“They were working in a word processing document, manipulating some of the tools for formatting,” said Rachel Porter, the director of educational and career initiatives at the Triangle Literacy Council.

Porter says Google Fiber’s Digital Inclusion Program will give them a better chance of staying out of trouble and building a life.

“Those are things that you would need to build to a resume, to do a job application -- the skills are transferrable to a lot of contexts,” said Porter. “I hope that, once these inmates are out of prison, the skills they are learning will help them stay out.”