ONLY ON WDRB: Prison braille program benefiting inmates and chil - WDRB 41 Louisville News

ONLY ON WDRB: Prison braille program benefiting inmates and children

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- It's a unique prison program where reading comes to life. The people who benefit: students.

Kentucky School for the Blind Student Madelyn Loyd loves how books paint a vivid picture, letting her imagination run wild.

"Right now, I'm reading a book called 'Beautiful Dark' trilogy," Loyd said. "It's really good. It's about angels."

She is one of about 70 students who attend the Kentucky School for the Blind. She went to a public school first, but feels more comfortable here, with her peers who have different levels of sight.

"When I was 18 months, I was diagnosed with Retinal Blastoma, which is a cancer of the eye, and I had chemo therapy and in the process," Loyd said. "I got my right eye removed. So my right eye is a prosthetic."

She and some other students read braille every day.

Amiracle Foard  is an 11-year-old 5th grader at KSB.

"All I remember whenever I started learning braille, I started learning what the letters are, then I started learning typing," Foard said.

Some of the books she reads are printed next door at the American Printing House for the Blind. The company makes textbooks for students all over the country, but with so much demand, it can't do it all.

Athena Williams helps print and create braille books, including hundreds of children's books that are posted on a wall.

"We use textures instead of colors and different raised lines," Williams said. "Whatever we have on hand to help the student be able to feel what they would get in a textbook."

While it looks like an office, the facility is actually behind the barbed wire fences of the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women. Williams is an inmate. 

"I have a 35-year sentence for murder and I have been here for 19 years," she said.

Because they're learning such specialized skills, these inmates must be serving longer sentences to get into the prison braille program that started 14 years ago. It's a job at the prison that adds up.

Joe Woods is a KCIW Operations Manager. 

"When they begin a job here at the facility, they start at 25 cents an hour," Woods said. "Upon a 30-day review, they're eligible to get 35 cents an hour for a raise."

The most they can make is 45 cents an hour.

Gary Mudd is the APH Vice President of Public Affairs says, "The Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women has helped us get more books to more kids more quickly."

It can be a tedious job making maps, gluing on different textures piece-by-piece. A book about a shark uses different materials so students can understand what a shark looks like.

"We just wanted to give them the anatomy of the shark and get them engaged and interested in wildlife and animals, just the same as their peers," Williams said.

A 5th grade math book, for example, with 575 pages takes eight months to transcribe. Not only is it time consuming, but braille is expensive.

"This one would probably be anywhere from $20 to $50, depending on how many pages," Williams said. "It usually runs a $1.50 to anywhere up to $8 a page for braille, depending on the code."

Williams says at first, this was just a job to pass the time behind bars. But now, she's learned some valuable skills. She can read and type braille.

"It makes me feel like I'm giving back even more to the kids because I was there at that time," she said. "If I had been interested in reading or in doing school, maybe I hadn't gotten in trouble."

"I think that's really cool that they're not just cleaning and stuff that they're actually doing something that's productive and giving back to the community," Loyd said.

Inmates appreciate the opportunity they've been given, while students appreciate the hard work it takes to turn written books into braille.

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