WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement after meeting with Senior Advisor to the President Jared Kushner about prison reform. During the conversation, Cassidy stressed the need to identify and address dyslexia in early education in order to prevent students from being consigned to a path of illiteracy, crime, and incarceration.
“I thank Jared for prioritizing prison reform and meeting to discuss solutions,” said Dr. Cassidy. “I shared with him that while conducting health clinics in the Louisiana prison system, I learned that illiteracy is a major risk factor for someone turning to a life of crime. And it makes sense that if someone learns to read, they’re more likely to be gainfully employed once they are released from prison, and more likely to become productive members of society. Dyslexia is a leading cause of illiteracy; to address illiteracy and incarceration, we must better address dyslexia.”
A study found that 80 percent of prison inmates at the state prison in Huntsville, Texas, were functionally illiterate and 48 percent were dyslexic.
In May 2016, Cassidy chaired a HELP Committee hearing on understanding dyslexia. The hearing featured actor Ameer Baraka, a New Orleans native who struggled with dyslexia as a student and turned to selling drugs. Barak discussed how he taught himself to read in prison on Fox News in April 2017.
In February 2016, Cassidy’s READ Act was signed into law by President Obama. The legislation requires the National Science Foundation (NSF) to devote at least $2.5 million to dyslexia research every year.
In 2015, Cassidy hosted world experts on dyslexia for a discussion at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, and chaired HELP Committee field hearings on dyslexia and education in New Orleans and Baton Rouge.
Each year, Senator Cassidy introduces a resolution in the Senate designating October as National Dyslexia Awareness Month.