The Reading Academy was established in the early 1980s as a result of an identified need to use education as a vehicle for achieving various goals related to life within and outside prison for inmates with limited academic skills in reading, writing, and math. However, like most literacy programs that have been successful in helping individuals from poor and working-class backgrounds, the Reading Academy also addressed a multitude of other needs in the process. In 1984, the state of Maryland established mandatory education for certain inmates in the adult prison system. After initial screening, inmates with a below-eighthgrade equivalency in reading are required to participate in a school program for a period of ninety days (Steurer, 1991). In 1980 with the aid of a federal grant, the Johns Hopkins University Reading Center developed a peer tutoring program at the Maryland house of corrections in Jessup. The success of this program led to its expansion to every major prison within the Maryland correctional system.
The Peer Tutoring Reading Academy operates among the educational programs of the Maryland correctional system. The Reading Academy specifically targets inmates who are reading below a third-grade level. The Read