Cassidy wants more answers from Federal Bureau of Prisons on testing inmates for dyslexia

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) voiced concerns with how the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) is developing a dyslexia screening program authorized under a recently enacted law he supported.

“For far too long there has been a significant misunderstanding of what dyslexia is and how it can be treated in a large capacity, such as in America’s prisons,” said Sen. Cassidy, a licensed medical doctor.

Sen. Cassidy called on BOP Acting Director Hugh Hurwitz to fully and properly implement the First Step Act of 2018, S. 756, particularly regarding screening prisoners for dyslexia, one of the provisions the senator helped get included in the prison reform law.

“To ensure these provisions are properly implemented across all federal prisons, my office has been in communication with the Bureau of Prisons’ Office of Legislative Affairs (OLA),” Sen. Cassidy wrote in a recent letter sent to Hurwitz. “I am writing today to express outstanding questions and concerns I have regarding BOP’s development of a dyslexia screening program, to ensure that the provisions in the First Step Act are properly implemented.”

In April, Sen. Cassidy said his office spoke with BOP by phone to ask about the status of implementing the First Step Act and then sent follow-up questions that included several related to the development of the screener.

The OLA provided the senator with responses, but Sen. Cassidy said that in reviewing them, he had even more questions, including those regarding the definitions of dyslexia used in federal prisons; the need to have experienced consultants; and the need for sensitive, specific and accurate screeners for adults, among others.

“If we are to reduce recidivism by upskilling inmates, it is necessary that they know how to read or have an appropriate accommodation provided, because the ability to read is both necessary to hold a job in the 21st century workforce and because it is necessary if they pass any exams required to demonstrate educational attainment and aptitude,” Sen. Cassidy wrote.