Prison Libraries

Prison Libraries

Bill To Bring Libraries To NYC Jails Faces Opposition From The Correction Department

On Tuesday, the City Council’s Criminal Justice Committee heard testimony on Councilmember Daniel Dromm’s bill, Int. 1184, that requires the Department of Correction to provide access to the library for all incarcerated people within 48 hours of entering the jail system. The Department would be required to report on the number of books they receive, the source of those books and, if books are censored, the reason for the censorship.
From Bill To Bring Libraries To NYC Jails Faces Opposition From The Correction Department: Gothamist

What Can You Read if you're Incarcerated in a Texas Prison?

If you're one of the more than 140,000 people doing time in a Texas state prison, you're not allowed to read books by Bob Dole, Harriet Beecher Stowe or Sojourner Truth. But you're more than welcome to dig into Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf" or David Duke's "My Awakening." Story from LA Times Jacket Copy.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice has banned 15,000 books from the correctional facilities it operates, most recently Dan Slater's new "Wolf Boys: Two American Teenagers and Mexico’s Most Dangerous Drug Cartel," the Guardian reports.

The news comes in the middle of Banned Books Week, the annual event celebrating literature that's been targeted by censors.

Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Assn., a Banned Books Week sponsor, blasted Texas’ decision to ban "Wolf Boys," about two Texas teenagers who go to work for the Zetas, an infamous Mexican drug cartel, and are caught and sentenced. The book is nonfiction: Both teenagers are housed in Texas prisons.

Rikers Island First Perm Library Opens

Don't sneer at prison libraries, Chief Justice Roberts

For those who are wondering, I’m talking about a remark the chief justice made last month during oral arguments in Bruce v. Samuels, a dispute about federal prisoners paying legal fees. Here I quote from Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog: When reminded that prisons maintain libraries, “Roberts then shot back, presumably sarcastically, ‘I’m sure they are very good libraries too.’”

From Don't sneer at prison libraries, Chief Justice Roberts - Chicago Tribune

Free Library to help inmates read to their kids

City officials announced Thursday a pilot program that will allow prison inmates to read books to their children through live video at neighborhood libraries.

The program, called "Stories Alive," will be launched in February at three branch libraries, likely in Frankford, Nicetown, and Kensington, said Titus Moolathara, who manages prison library services for the Free Library of Philadelphia.

From Free Library to help inmates read to their kids

Prison is a Great Place to Get Reading Done

From the New Yorker, a story of one man's favorite activity while in prison.

ps - don't do heroin.

Limits to Books in British Prisons Draws Creative Ire

From The New York Times:

Mr. Chris Mr. Grayling is Britain’s secretary of state for justice, and last November, his department tightened the rules on privileges granted to inmates. One of the changes was to restrict the flow of books into prisons, with a ban on packages of books brought or sent by friends and relatives. Mr. MacShane’s case suggests that some guards have interpreted the policy as a broader ban, though the Ministry of Justice says books should be confiscated only on admission for logistical reasons or if the books are considered inappropriate.

Either way, the effect is to move toward a system under which prisoners must borrow books from prison libraries or earn the right to buy them through good behavior. The debate over access to literature in prison has put Mr. Grayling at the center of an acrimonious dispute over crime and punishment, rehabilitation and whether receiving books is a right or a privilege for a prisoner.

It has also made him some very creative enemies. Novelists, including Kathy Lette and Margaret Drabble, are threatening to name some of their most villainous and unfortunate fictional characters after Mr. Grayling. Ms. Lette said her coming novel, “Courting Trouble,” will feature a corrupt lawyer named Chris Grayling who ends up in a prison where he is deprived of reading matter and goes insane.

“For Britain to be punishing people by starving them of literature is cruel and unusual punishment,” Ms. Lette said as she took part in a protest last month outside the prime minister’s office. “We are going to impale him on the end of our pens. Poetic justice is true justice.”

Mayor to Miami-Dade libraries: get more efficient to receive more money

Mayor to Miami-Dade libraries: get more efficient to receive more money
When librarian and task-force member Katherine Seaver responded, “We’re down to 400 employees,’’ Gimenez suggested the county may need to look at whether the wages match the positions needed at the libraries.

“What do we pay our employees?” Gimenez asked. “That’s tough for me to say, but it’s the truth.”

His comments are the latest installment in the mayor’s push to remake the library into something that is both more modern and less expensive to run. The department’s $50 million budget faces a $20 million shortfall next year thanks largely to Miami-Dade lowering a special library tax rate while leaving the library to burn through reserves to sustain operations.

Read more here:

Death Keeps Typewriters Alive, Clacking

Typewriters are still popular and used for many things, including funeral homes and prisons. A recent model is transparent, so contraband can't be smuggled in with one in prison environments. "They proved popular behind bars. In Texas, state prison inmates have purchased more than 1,500 Swintec typewriters since 2011 from penitentiary commissaries for up to $225 a pop, according to Jason Clark, a spokesman.

Reading Erotica in Prison

A San Francisco appeals court ruled that a werewolf erotica novel must be returned to Andres Martinez, an inmate of Pelican Bay State Prison, after prison guards took it away from him on the grounds that it was pornography. Although the court grants that novel in question, The Silver Crown, by Mathilde Madden, is "less than Shakespearean," it argues that the book nevertheless has literary merit and shouldn't be banned under prison obscenity laws.

Story from NPR's The Two-Way.

Guantanamo Prison Library Books

More books & comics shown here, collection by Charlie Savage.

...and from Moby Lives:

Can Inkscape help to reduce the number of incarcerated people?

Some human minds are well suited to processing words and some human minds are well suited to processing images. Our education system strongly favors the former. What if we gave the latter more of a chance? Could Inkscape, the free vector drawing program, help reduce the number of incarcerated people? Topic: inclusion

For Inmates in Appalachian Prisons, These Books are A Lifeline

Washington Post blog reports on a program started by professor Katy Ryan at West Virginia University in 2004, the Appalachian Prison Book Project (thank you Mock Turtle).

Whatever the subject, volunteers with the Appalachian Prison Book Project believe they hold the power to unlock worlds.

From a small room in a historic house next to the Morgantown Public Library, they meticulously organize requests, exchanging letters to find just the right read and get permission from prison administrators while simultaneously scrambling to raise money for shipping.

The process takes months, and the restrictions are many: Spiral-bound books are banned, their spines seen as potential weapons. Hardcovers are discouraged. Some institutions refuse books altogether, often with no explanation.

“You would think it’s not that big a deal. We’re just sending out used books, free of charge, to people in prison,” says Dominique Bruno, a doctoral student at West Virginia University who serves as outreach coordinator. “But it is as hard to get something into a prison as it is to get out of one.”

The life of a prison librarian

For many people, prison would not be high on their list of places to go voluntarily.

But writer Jean Charbonneau is unique, much like his current occupation. He's been a prison librarian for the past several years in Maryland, far away from his home province in Quebec.

Brazilian prisoners given novel way to reduce their sentence.

Brazil will offer inmates in its crowded federal penitentiary system a new way to shorten their sentences: a reduction of four days for every book they read. Inmates in four federal prisons holding some of Brazil's most notorious criminals will be able to read up to 12 works of literature, philosophy, science or classics to trim a maximum 48 days off their sentence each year, the government announced. Read more about it at:

Man shot in back at Mpls. library is paralyzed

Man shot in back at Mpls. library is paralyzed
Hennepin County increased its security patrols of the Franklin Community Library in south Minneapolis on Thursday after a man was shot the day before by someone who accosted him in a library bathroom.

Convicted terrorist complains about jail library facilities

Convicted terrorist complains about jail library facilities
A convicted terrorist serving 14 years for his part in amassing stockpiles of bomb-making chemicals has argued he should not serve a further lengthy jail term for other crimes - because the Goulburn Supermax library is not up to scratch.
Convicted terrorist complains about jail library facilities
Not enough books about maths and Islamic art in the library
Lawyer argues he should not serve further jail for other crimes

Alabama Inmate Sues to Read Southern History Book

From The New York Times

A convict’s lawsuit says he was told by a prison official that an award-winning book about the heinous treatment of black prisoners after the Civil War was “too incendiary” for him to read.

Here Is Miss Shirley

The Washinton Post profiles Glennor Shirley head of the Maryland prison library system, and how she and the inmates who utilize the libraries she serves are faring with severe budget cuts.

CT Department of Corrections to Review Prison Library Offerings

Residents of Connecticut will not soon forget the brutal home invasion murders that took place in Cheshire in 2007. Now the state has learned that the convicted murderer, Steven Hayes, read books in prison depicting violent murders and the burning of victims.

From the ABC-TV affiliate: The new rules for Connecticut's prison libraries will be in place around July 1. Leo Arnone told the legislature's Judiciary Committee on Monday that committees in each prison will come up with policies for approving books. The Department of Correction receives most of its books from donations.

State Sen. John Kissel proposed a bill requiring DOC to review the federal rules. "I think most people's common sense view on this issue is that violent inmates should not have access to books that graphically depict violence against people, especially women," said State Sen. John Kissel.

Kissel said most of the book Hayes read had graphic details about strangulation, rape and murder. Many of the books were donated and the prison systems needs to review the books and decide which may not be suitable. The reading list includes David Baldacci's "Split Second, Greg Iles'"Mortal Fear" and "First To Die" by James Patterson.

David McGuirea with the ACLU believes this is censorship and is skeptical about who decides what books are OK and which aren’t.


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