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.)

Carceral Histories in the United States

I have been quietly working on a book about library services to people who are incarcerated, to be published by ALA in 2021. I am glad to stand with librarians who are doing the work to critically interrogate librarianship and the profession’s complicity with systems of policing, incarceration, and white supremacy.  Thanks to my editor and to ALA, I have the opportunity to offer a prepublication chapter of the book to the world.

You can access the chapter titled Carceral Histories in the United States at the link below. This chapter covers some of the early practices that led to present day carceral systems in the United States.  It specifically focuses on how librarians conceptualized providing information to incarcerated people in the period between the late 1800s until the early 1990s. This is the second chapter from my forthcoming book, Library Services and Incarceration: Recognizing Barriers, Strengthening Access (working title).

 

If you’ve viewed the timeline of services I previously posted on my blog, you’ll hopefully benefit from the expanded and revised timeline located at the end of this chapter.

Thank you for your interest in library services to people who are incarcerated.  I welcome any feedback and perspective that might improve the published edition of this chapter.

Essay on Information Access

My essay on information access in carceral institutions is now available online through Feminist Media Studies. Here’s the abstract:

Policing and incarceration are feminist issues that stand to be interrogated through examinations of carceral practices. This essay positions the management and withholding of information and the observation of communications as instances of carceral specific practices that shape possibilities for incarcerated people and their communities. The author draws from their experience as a librarian in carceral facilities to outline how State-enacted violence occurs through the regulation and management of information access. As carceral facilities utilize third-party ICT providers, it is difficult to ascertain what information is or is not available. The introduction of new and evolving ICTs has led to increased opportunities for the State to monitor people who are incarcerated and their communities, positioning incarcerated people and their networks not only as sources of information but as data to train technologies of policing and surveillance. Instances of resistance to these practices reveal some ways that people who are not incarcerated can act in solidarity with people who are incarcerated and people who are subject to State surveillance.

You can access the full essay at

Austin, J. (2020). Information access within carceral institutions. Feminist Media Studies. DOI: 10.1080/14680777.2020.1786933