South Carolina prison inmates produce textbooks for blind students

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GREENWOOD COUNTY, SC (WSPA) – We’re asked not to show the faces of inmates at the Leath Correctional institution, where some women are serving life sentences, but their pride is clear.

“It’s a job. It’s not just a place you go to work,” an inmate told 7News. “It’s a place we can go and be proud of.”

Women at the Greenwood prison are opening the minds of children who can’t see for themselves by producing braille textbooks for the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind as well as students in other SC schools, and other parts of the country.

“Provide them in a timely manner so the kids have the books when their sighted peers have them,” Jill Ischinger, SC School for the Deaf and the Blind Director of Statewide Instructional Material Center said.

The SC SFTDB runs the program where regular state textbooks are adapted into raised dots called braille.

The operation is part of the National Prison Braille Network which includes roughly 40 prisons across the country, with the Greenwood prison being the only location in South Carolina since 2002.

Officials say inmates are paid based on volume.

“It also provides them with a skill that they can use when they get out,” Ischinger said. “We’ve got about 4 that are gainfully employed doing this that have left this program.”

SCDC reports there are more than 1,200 inmates working in a prison industry across the state.

“These inmates here strive to do better and we want them to do better,” Leath Correctional Institution Associate Warden Loretta Moore said. “I’ve been here for 30 years. I would say that prison isn’t what it seems to be. We give the inmates tools to rejoin society. Everything people see on tv isn’t typically what it is.”

Almost one hundred women at the Greenwood prison work sewing clothes for the military and other prisons or agencies.

“The private sector side these women make $7.25 an hour and they pay state and federal taxes. On the state side they get incentive pay so everybody gets paid something,” Leath Correctional Institution Prison Industry Point Manager Consuella Ferguson said. “Some of these ladies are lifers and they don’t have money so this is a way for them to give back to SCDC.”

SCDC says inmates employed in these programs also contribute to victim’s programs, family support, and room & board.

“It’s training them how to communicate one to another even when you have differences,” said Ferguson. “They work 40 hours a week so that keeps them out of trouble.”

Officials said inmates who are disciplined can’t take part.

“Just knowing that we are helping somebody and we are able to give back to the community because when you’re in here sometimes you feel like you’re lost and you’re not a part of society anymore but this place gives that to us,” an inmate told 7News.

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