Prison Libraries

An Essay from The Prison-Librarian-Author

A week or so ago, I posted information about a new book coming out, a first-hand account of a prison librarian entitled "Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian".

Last week's NY TImes Magazine has a piece by the author, Avi Steinberg, which you might enjoy here. Here's a portion:

You know you’re not doing well when a prisoner regards you with pity. When a man in an oversize prison uniform — a man who could narrate the gruesome entirety of his life through the scars on his body — gives you the once-over and says: “You O.K., pal? You don’t look too good,” you know you’re in trouble.

Prison was doing me in. Although I’d taken the job as a librarian in a Boston prison largely for health insurance, I hadn’t actually needed medical care until I did. After a year and half in the joint, I was subsisting by the grace of a dream team of health care professionals: allergists, infectious-disease specialists, ophthalmologists, dermatologists, orthopedists, off-duty nurses, chiropractors, Internet quacks, back doctors, front doctors, head doctors. I’d even consulted an OB-GYN.

Connecticut Prisons to Review Library Policy

Following up on yesterday's LISNews story that found inmates had unrestricted access to works depicting graphic violence in CT prison libraries, the state Department of Correction is revising its library policy in the wake of an Associated Press investigation.

Sen. John Kissel, R-Enfield, said he met with Correction Commissioner Leo Arnone for an hour Friday after learning that books such as Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood," a literary classic about a 1959 killing in Kansas, were among the department's library holdings.

Update from MSNBC.

Connecticut Prison Inmates Reading True Crime And Other Violent Books

Connecticut Prison Inmates Reading True Crime And Other Violent Books
Inmates in Connecticut prisons have access to true crime books and works of fiction that depict murder and graphic violence, with no apparent restrictions based on a reader's criminal history, according to a review of the prison library system by The Associated Press.

The First-Person Prison Librarian

New book coming out in mid-October..."Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian" by Avi Steinberg.

Book summary from Edelweiss: Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison. -- Read More

E-books in a Correctional Setting: a niche market

Excerpt from article at Corrections.com

I immediately saw the advantage of e-books in the prison setting. If each inmate could have a library of over 1,000 titles in one small e-book reader, it would cut down on hiding contraband among the books (such as sandpaper to erase their uniform logo), remove the unsanitary habit of reading books in the rest-room, cut down on repairing books (averaging 20% or over 1,200 books destroyed each year), free up space by limiting the 3 X 8 foot long bookshelves that only hold 640 books for 100 inmates in each unit, encourage struggling readers to listen to a book while reading the text on the screen, and, finally, allow anyone to increase the size of the font so LARGE PRINT will never be limited to a few titles!

Full article

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian

Avi Steinberg is stumped. After defecting from yeshiva to Harvard, he has only a senior thesis essay on Bugs Bunny to show for his effort. While his friends and classmates advance in the world, he remains stuck at a crossroads, unable to meet the lofty expectations of his Orthodox Jewish upbringing. And his romantic existence as a freelance obituary writer just isn’t cutting it. Seeking direction—and dental insurance—Steinberg takes a job as a librarian in a tough Boston prison. -- Read More

Inmate on Trial for Attack on Prison Librarian

ROCKLAND, Maine — Although she said she never cried that day, a prison librarian who was tied to her desk for seven hours, threatened, cut and hit by an inmate on June 30, 2008, said Tuesday during court testimony that she was just happy to have survived.

“I’m grateful to be alive, and I appreciate every breath. I was back into the facility in 48 hours,” Jacqueline Weddle said during the second day of the trial against inmate Michael Chasse.

“I thought that I would at some point die,” she told jurors in Knox County Superior Court.

Chasse is charged with several counts of assault, kidnapping and terrorizing for allegedly holding Weddle and fellow inmate Ryan Currier hostage in an office at the Maine State Prison library.

Weddle was the first witness called Tuesday in the trial that is expected to last more than a week.

Was It the Crime Novels? Prison Books Bring Plot Twist to Cheshire Killings

NY Times, Dateline: NEW HAVEN — As the trial approaches for one of the men charged in the triple-homicide home invasion in Cheshire, CT in 2007, all the motions, requests for evidence, and demands that one would expect in a complex capital case have flown back and forth between the defense and prosecutors.

But one stood out, tantalizingly. The defense said it would request that the names of books that one of the accused men, Steven Hayes, checked out of a prison library before the killings not be admitted as evidence. The books, the defense indicated in one motion, included plots that were “criminally malevolent in the extreme.”

Mr. Hayes’s lawyers suggested that prison librarians might have given him what amounted to a literary blueprint for the crime, one that already has what some see as a literary predecessor of sorts: it has been compared with the 1959 Kansas killings described in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.”

The defense lawyers’ suggestion that prison library books could have shaped the crime — or that knowing Mr. Hayes read them could turn jurors against him — has created a strange kind of guessing game about the literary interests of Mr. Hayes, 46, a career thief and drug abuser whose education topped out at a high school equivalency degree.

Prison Library Wins Praise and an Award

Scotland’s only library with a waiting list has been given a top award for the impact it has had on the lives of its readers – the inmates at Saughton Prison.

The prison came first in the Libraries Change Lives Awards on Tuesday, after judges heard the purpose-built facility had welcomed more than 12,500 inmates through its doors in its first year.

The extension, which opened in November 2008, has now become the only library in Scotland, public or private, to have attracted a waiting list. Since the new facility opened, staff say the number of books being damaged has also reduced from 80% to zero.

One prisoner commented: "When I first came into jail I found it really hard to read because I wasn’t good at concentrating and I would have to read the same paragraph over and over but after persisting with it and practising all the time, I find reading just as easy as breathing. I have to admit that reading is now a hobby for me. I love it and I would be lost without it as it’s helped me through my sentence."

The library, run by experienced librarian Kate King, aims to address social inclusion issues amongst prisoners and provide education and employment opportunities to ease the transition back to life on the outside.

A Library for Those With Plenty of Time to Read

New Rikers 'Librarian' Looks Familiar
Robert Halderman, known as Joe, who was arrested last fall on charges of extorting David Letterman, is now helping inmates choose books at Rikers Island.

Story here

There is a three minute video included with the story.

Syndicate content