Tag Archives: Prison Libraries

Where state prison inmates can escape … to the law library

“Before he ended up at East Jersey State Prison, Morris Jackmon couldn’t imagine a life past age 19.  He said he was a star football player for Woodrow Wilson High School in Camden who lived recklessly. Sometimes, he and his friends would sit around and fantasize about what it’d be like to make it to the second decade of their lives. But when he was imprisoned for murder and other offenses from an armed robbery in 1994, he realized the steep price of losing his freedom. And he wanted out. (via NJ.com)

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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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