Saturday, July 12, 2008

Inmates learn Braille to help visually impaired children

Prison inmates are learning Braille so they can translate printed school books for children at the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. "When you look at it, all you see is dots on a paper," said Michael Royce, who is one of nearly 20 men at the Miami Correctional Facility working on the Miami Braille Project. The men work on small blue typewriters, putting together a series of raised dots that blind children can read later. Royce, 38, was convicted of rape when he was 18 years old. He has 12 more years before his sentence is up, but he looks forward to using his Braille skills once he is released from prison.

"I can't undo what I did," he said. "But now I have the opportunity to do something positive and good for other people." The project will provide textbooks and other education materials for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The project aims to give inmates a chance to learn a skill and help the community -- while providing the school for the blind with cheaper books than those available through Braille companies.

"The savings will be astronomical," said Robert Eutz, a contractor for the school for the blind. About 750 children in Indiana are legally blind, and 162 require Braille, said Jim Durst, superintendent of the Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Curtis Nimmie, a 43-year-old convicted sex offender, is also working on the Braille project. He hopes to learn how to transcribe music into Braille.

"It gives me a sense of purpose," he said. David Donahue, commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction, said prison work programs often give inmates a work ethic and job skills they can use once they are released. "Not only can (former inmates) take care of themselves, but they can give something back," Donahue said.


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