Public Library Services to Incarcerated People

While many public libraries in the United States likely offer some type of service to people in jails, prisons, detention centers, or in the process of reentry, it is surprisingly difficult to locate information about these programs. A new project is seeking information on public library initiatives that are intentionally providing services to people impacted by incarceration.

To view what they have already gathered, please click here.

To add information to the document, please contact me.

For more context on the information gathering project, please visit Renewed Libraries.

I believe that a detailed list of public libraries providing these programs will allow librarians to find one another, consider innovative ideas, and present supporting evidence that it is the role of the public library to provide information and services to people impacted by incarceration. I’m very excited to see this list grow!

Open Access: Article with Books to Prisoners

I’ve recently worked with Books to Prisoners volunteers to explore how prison censorship practices shape the information requests made by people who are incarcerated, the value of Books to Prisoners programs, and how Books to Prisoners’ efforts can guide LIS in advocating for information access for people who are incarcerated. Our article, Systemic Oppression and the Contested Ground of Information Access for Incarcerated People, is now available through the open access publisher Open Information Science. It is part of a special issue on race and racism in information studies, edited by Dr. Villa-Nicholas and Dr. LaTesha Velez.

The article is available at https://www.degruyter.tools/document/doi/10.1515/opis-2020-0013/html.

While many Books to Prisoners groups have curtailed or limited their operations during the pandemic, dedicated volunteers continue to send books, process donations, and host webinars. Please visit this list to locate a Books to Prisoners group near you.

ALA Report on Libraries and Reentry

The American Library Association has published a report on how libraries support people who have been incarcerated after they are released from jails and prisons. The report features library services provided across the United States. It highlights innovative and needed programs that provide models for library systems considering how they can better support people impacted by policing and incarceration. From the press release:

“For incarcerated persons, books are windows into different worlds. For those formerly incarcerated, libraries are doors of opportunity,” said ALA Senior Director of Public Policy and Government Relations Alan Inouye. “Libraries not only provide books and internet connected devices, they offer staff to help reentering patrons use the technology and navigate the network of resources and information to help them get their bearing in a world vastly different than the one they came from.”

The full press release is available here.

For the full report, please see

Monica Cosby’s Essay on Reading in Prison

Monica Cosby has graciously given permission to share her powerful essay on the necessity of having access to books and other reading materials while incarcerated, which she describes as “a life-saving and life-giving gift.” Monica’s essay was published in the November 2017 issue of Bound Struggles, a publication through Chicago Books to Women in Prison.

Bound Struggles publishes content created by women who are incarcerated in the United States. Issues contain art, essays, poetry, and other media. Bound Struggles is available for purchase through the Chicago Books to Women in Prison online store.

Video: Alcatraz and Mass Incarceration

San Francisco Public Library hosted a conversation between Troy Williams and Jackson Lam on July 22, 2020.  The video below is  recording of that event.  In this video, Troy shares his own experiences of  incarceration and reentry and emphasizes the value of restorative justice in his life.

 

“Troy Williams, founder and director of Restorative Media and host of the Troy Williams Journal served 25 years in prison facilities. Williams along with a National Park Service Alcatraz park ranger will discuss mass incarceration in America. Learn how the history of incarceration at Alcatraz informs us about the state of incarceration today, with a special focus on incarceration and reentry during the current pandemic, protests and uprisings.”  (Description from San Francisco Public Library.)