"The world is before you
and you need not take it
or leave it as it was
when you came in."
–James A. Baldwin
At Native Sons, we know that literacy can make all the difference in whether or not a young person locked up in juvenile detention winds up returning to prison. The fact is that 85% of the 55,000 juvenile inmates who are detained every year are illiterate. We also know that these young people have just a 16% chance of returning to prison if they receive literacy help, as opposed to 70% who receive none. This huge opportunity is what inspires us at Native Sons.
With our purpose of fighting mass incarceration from the inside out, Native Sons is a literacy program aimed at getting books and reading materials—culturally, sociologically, historically relevant and appropriate ones—into the hands of juveniles caught up by the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Our team of advisors includes some folks who have found their way out of the criminal justice system and back to their communities, people who know how tough it can be to readjust and realign. Other Native Sons mentors are still serving time in prison, yet have committed themselves to serving others in order that their mistakes might be used for good. Others yet are educators and coaches, and more. We all come from different backgrounds yet share a passion for social equality; we aim to fight the injustice of mass incarceration by working to impact the wide spread of juvenile offender illiteracy.
Already, Native Sons has collected and brought hundreds of copies of new and lightly-used books and other literacy materials to young people held in juvenile detention, at-risk high school classrooms, as well as adult prisons. Young people serving time are benefitting tremendously from our investment in them, returning to their communities better-equipped and more hopeful about the future.