Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Unlimited Access, Intellectual Freedom & Prisons

by Alisha Johnson, Ensley Branch Library

Library at a federal prison on an island in the Puget Sound, 1928

After reading an article about Georgia prisons and how books have contributed to low recidivism rates, it is apparently clear that more institutions should adopt the idea of acquiring more books and maintaining prison collections.

Historically Georgia, among many other states, have faced years of zero funding and have had to rely solely on donations to keep libraries functioning. Even after books are donated, much of the materials are scrutinized in a manner in which a number of them never reach the prison population. In fact, if a book or magazine includes an excerpt that has potential of inciting a riot, then that material is immediately taken and discarded. Consequently, other information contained in the book is never accessed by inmates as a result of safety concerns.

Literacy for inmates and all others is based on the fundamentals of unlimited access and choice. Without having these elements as a basis for investment and building in our communities, we lose that which is necessary for survival—learning!

For more information check out these resources from your local library:

Books in Stir: A Bibliographic Essay about Prison Libraries and about Books Written by Prisoners and Prison Employees by Rudolf Engelbarts
Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian by Avi Steinberg
The Prison Problem in Jefferson County, Alabama / a survey by the Prison Industries Reorganization Administration

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