Tag Archives: Prison Libraries

How do you get prisoners to read? Build a library like the one in this jail.

“Larry Blair is finally reading books. The 61-year-old dropped out of middle school after an armed robbery arrest and never considered himself much of a traditional academic. He has called a jail cell home for a combined 40 years, drifting in and out for a jumble of theft, drug and assault convictions. Each time he’s released, he reverts to stealing and lands back behind bars. Blair will complete his sentence this month, and he says it’ll be different this time. He promises to keep reading.” (The Washington Post)

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State library shuts out jailhouse lawyers

“Vermont prison inmates who want to do legal research into their cases are finding themselves without the help of a state law librarian. A budget cut approved by lawmakers earlier this year meant the departure of Paul Donovan from the state law library in Montpelier. Donovan had a reputation in Vermont and around the country as a go-to person for inmates with legal research questions. A July 1 letter from Donovan explaining the change was posted on a wall outside a cell at the Southern State Correctional Facility during a legislative committee’s tour last week.” (via AP)

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Marybeth Zeman’s “Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian”

“Kids need books, not jail. That is the message author Marybeth Zeman is hoping to get across in her new nonfiction book “Tales of a Jailhouse Librarian.” “I am trying to touch other people and inform them,” said Zeman, who lives in Fort Greene and works as a transitional counselor for incarcerated youngsters at the Nassau County Jail on Long Island. “People need to know about the system that these kids are caught up in.” Zeman is technically a counselor, but she has a degree in library science and has become the jail’s de facto book minder. When she started working in the kiddie clink four years ago, the jail had very few books, so she filled a rolling cart with titles and started bringing it around to the pubescent inmates.” (via The Brooklyn Paper)

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New York Is Shelving Its Prison Law Libraries

“Back in the 1990s, the Supreme Court said that while prisoners have the right to pursue a legal claim, they don’t have “an abstract, freestanding right to a law library.”For years after the ruling, even though it no longer had to, New York required its county jails to maintain a supply of legal reference materials, such as various chapters of New York State Consolidated Laws and case law digests.But as times of plenty have faded, New York has decided that the law library is an unaffordable luxury.  After finding that the mandate imposed a “significant cost upon each county,” New York’s prison commission is proposing to relax the regulation and allow prisons to shutter their libraries. (via WSJ)

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California State Library grant provides books for California prisons

“The California State Library has awarded the Southern California Library Cooperative (SCLC) a grant for $371,000 to provide text books and recreational reading materials to California Prisons. These funds provided through the Library Services Training Act (LSTA), are being granted to support an important need – new materials and textbooks in prison libraries. The monies granted are being used to furnish textbooks to three California prisons. These include adult prisons San Quentin and Ironwood and juvenile prison, the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility. Recreational reading materials are being sent to all California prisons. The textbooks provided for the adult prisons will be used to give inmates more resources to complete classes at community colleges. At Ventura’s Youth Correctional Facility, juvenile offenders will get textbooks to help them complete their high school diplomas. The recreational reading materials, going to all 33 prisons in California, include magazines, newspapers, and fiction and non-fiction books.”

via California State Library

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No Censorship in Texas Prison Ban on Some Books

Courthouse News – “Texas corrections facilities did not violate the First Amendment by banning certain books that graphically describe rape, child abuse and race relations in the prison system, the 5th Circuit ruled. Prison Legal News, a nonprofit advocate of inmate rights, filed suit over five books banned by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ), under a book-review policy that the parties agree is constitutional. TDCJ has approved about 80,000 of more than 92,000 books sent to its inmates, according to database records.”

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Ex-warden: Bible-only jail policy in SC too strict

AP – “A Bible-only policy for inmates at a South Carolina jail is stricter than policies governing reading materials allowed some of the country’s most dangerous inmates, a former warden who ran the tough federal penitentiary that replaced Alcatraz said in court documents.

John L. Clark, who served for years as warden of the U.S. Penitentiary in Marion, Ill., filed an affidavit that states that letting prisoners read various materials kept even that Supermax prison safe. That complex replaced Alcatraz when it closed in 1963.”

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W.Va. jail receives book windfall

AP – “The closing of a used-book shop will result in a trove of new reading material for the South Central Regional Jail.

Well Read owner Rena Seidler is closing her shop’s doors after opening a little over a year ago. As a parting gesture, she’ll give her unsold inventory of between 2,500 and 3,000 books to the jail.”

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Bill affecting Conn. prison libraries advances

AP – “Even though Connecticut’s Department of Correction is currently working on new rules for its prison libraries, a bill requiring standards for the books inmates can check out is still advancing through the General Assembly.”

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