Vision and incarceration? Conexus helps us figure this out!

Did you know:

  • When children don’t have good vision, their school performance suffers?
  • Title 1 students (schools in disadvantaged areas), juvenile offenders, illiterate adults, academically at-risk college students, and academically/behaviorally at-risk public school students have a higher prevalence of undetected vision problems.
  • Vision problems can lead to self-esteem issues with emotional and antisocial behavior.
  • There is a link Between Undetected and Untreated Vision Problems, Literacy, and Incarceration
  • Better vision care means a more literate and productive workforce.

Dr. Joel Zaba, an Optomestrist in Virginia Beach, authored the article “Children’s Vision Care in the 21st Century and Its Impact on Education, Literacy, Social Issues, and the Workplace: A Call to Action,” which outlined the above facts. Even more alarming is the information cited below:

School districts in disadvantaged areas have statistics that are quite eye opening. Of Title I students in the fifth through eighth grades, and academically and behaviorally at-risk children ages 8 to 18, up to 85% of these children had vision problems that were either undetected or untreated. Children from poor urban areas, many of whom are ethnic minorities, experience more than twice the normal rate of vision problems. Without the proper vision skills, these children will be at risk of dropping out of high school. Teenagers with mediocre high school academic records and low Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) scores have been found to have significant undetected or untreated vision problems. They are at risk of not completing their college programs.

A significant number of undetected and untreated vision problems are found in adults in the lowest levels of literacy.  When evaluating adults with literacy problems, 66% to 74% of the samples failed vision screenings.

In 2000, previously undetected vision problems were found in populations of adjudicated adolescents, with percentages as high as 74%. In a 2003 national assessment of prison inmates, only 43% had obtained a high school diploma or a high school equivalency certification before the start of  their incarceration. Social and economic problems such as literacy, high school dropout rates, juvenile delinquency, and adult criminality, are complex issues. Even so, vision is often overlooked as a contributing factor, despite overwhelming evidence that it plays a critical role in childhood development and school performance.

Because of this information, a great supporter of REAL LIFE, Barry Moore, connected us with a local non-profit called Conexus that brings free vison programming and on-site eye exams and glasses to thousands of students in Richmond Public Schools (approximately 25,000 students annually).  We were curious how our adult REAL alumni compared to the above statistics, while offering an opportunity for eye testing and free follow up services.  So, last night, Conexus Present CEO Tim Gresham and Screening Technician Corrine Huber, came to our alumni meeting and shared about the importance of eye health, as well as tested all who were present, including staff and volunteers.  Here is what we found:

There were 12 male and female alumni who were tested, all of whom had been previously incarcerated more than a couple of items. The following is stats of the group:

  • Ages ranged from 31 to 60
  • 6 dropped out or got kicked out of high school (all of whom ended up earning their GED while incarcerated); 4 had some form of higher education, and 2 graduated from high school.
  • 5 wore glasses at some point in their lives, the remaining 7 never wore glasses/weren’t tested.
  • When asked if they had an eye exam in the past several years, all individuals reported not having an annual exam due to incarceration or their unawareness in the importance of having an eye exam.
  • 7 individuals failed the eye exam, the other 5 passed it. 3 of the 5 who passed graduated high school and had some form of higher college education.

Conexus was so kind to bless our alumni each with a voucher for a follow up eye exam and FREE glasses! We are thrilled to have started this partnership and to have the ability for our alumni to have this offering now! To say our alumni was excited last night for the exam and voucher is an understatement! They were beyond appreciative of Conexus and their service.