Prison Libraries

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.

What is a Public Library?

Via Via Bobbi Newman's Librarian by Day , the answer to to question above (parodying the iPad commercial):

Inmates see prison libraries as tools to making a better life

Inmates see prison libraries as tools to making a better life
Men and women in the prison's drug-treatment programs usually walk out of their weekly visits to the library with five books - the maximum amount they are allowed to check out at once - most of which focus on beating an addiction, stopping the cycle of child abuse or losing weight.

A Look from the 'Inside' as a Rikers Library Volunteer

Jamie Niehof, Intern, Correctional Services Program writes:

Another day of volunteering at Rikers Island with the NYPL has come to a close. Thursday I went to one of the male detention houses along with my mentor and two other staff members from NYPL. We were there for "book cart service," which is a little different than what I remember from Shawshank Redemption.

We delivered books to both solitary confinement and two different "houses," which are the names of blocks within the building. The inmates in solitary confinement are allowed to request books off a list, so we filled these requests from the "library" within this particular building, which was really just two tall shelves of paperback books in the back of the Chaplain's office.

We felt like Indiana Jones capturing the golden statue when we found a book one of the prisoners had requested. Usually the titles were listed on their slips of paper as Cold Moon. That's it. No author, just words. If we couldn't find one of the prisoner's specific books (they can request three and we try to find one of them) we will substitute something simliar, same author, plot, etc.

Prison librarian sentenced for smuggling drugs

Prison librarian sentenced for smuggling drugs
A Stillwater prison librarian was sentenced to seven years of probation for helping inmates check out more than library books. According to a criminal complaint filed in Washington County District Court she tried to smuggle marijuana into the prison, located in Bayport, while she worked as a law librarian at the prison, a job she did once a month. She pleaded guilty to one count of bringing contraband into a state prison. She faces seven years of probation, 30 days of community work service and 30 days on a sentence to service crew.

Grisham and Updike among authors banned by Texan jail authorities

Grisham and Updike among authors banned by Texan jail authorities
An exhaustive analysis by the Austin American Statesman of five years'-worth of publications whose rejection as unsuitable was appealed by inmates found a host of bestselling and classic titles had been banned from the state's prisons. Books by Nobel laureates Pablo Neruda and Andre Gide, collections of paintings by Picasso and Michelangelo, and bestsellers by James Patterson, Carl Hiaasen and Hunter S Thompson have all failed to pass the prisons' censors.

Prison magazine sues Va., alleges censorship

Virginia prison officials have unconstitutionally restricted inmates from receiving a magazine that reports on prisoner rights and criminal justice issues, the publication claims in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

Prison Legal News filed the lawsuit against Gene M. Johnson, director of the state Department of Corrections, and other prison officials and employees in federal court in Charlottesville.

Supermax Prison: Obama's Books Objectionable

(AP) Ahmed Omar Abu Ali is serving a 30-year sentence at the federal supermax prison in Florence, Colo., for joining al-Qaida and plotting to assassinate then-President George W. Bush. Last year, Abu Ali requested two books written by Obama: "Dreams from My Father" and "The Audacity of Hope."

His request was denied. Prison officials, citing guidance from the FBI, determined that passages in both books contain information that could damage national security.

The rejections, as well as other restrictions on family visits, prompted a hunger strike by Abu Ali that has since ended, his lawyer Joshua Dratel wrote.

Thanks Infodiva Librarian for the tip.

ACLU Protests Banning of Religious Works at Prison Libraries

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed formal comments opposing a proposed rule by the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) that would illegally empower prison officials to ban vital religious works from prison chapel libraries, despite a law passed last year prohibiting them from doing so. The proposed rule, which would allow material to be banned based on a mere determination that it "could…suggest" violence or criminal behavior, directly contradicts the Second Chance Act which places strict limits on what material BOP officials may outlaw.

The ACLU’s comments, which have been signed by a diverse coalition of religious organizations including the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, the American Jewish Congress and Muslim Advocates, were submitted for consideration to BOP’s Office of General Counsel.

Additional coverage from the NYTimes.


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