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Prison library

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Prison library

Prison libraries are provided in many

External links

  1. ^ a b c Lehmann, V. (2011). Challenges and accomplishments in U.S. prison libraries. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 490–508.
  2. ^ Lehmann, V. (2011). Challenges and accomplishments in U.S. prison libraries. Library Trends, 59(3),p.490)
  3. ^ a b c Rubin, R. J. (1973). U.S. prison library services and their theoretical bases. Occasional Papers, No. 110.
  4. ^ Lehmann, V. (2011). Challenges and accomplishments in U.S. prison libraries. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 491.
  5. ^ Lehmann, V. (2011). Challenges and accomplishments in U.S. prison libraries. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 490–508
  6. ^ Rubin, R. J. (1973). U.S. prison library services and their theoretical bases. Occasional Papers, No. 110, p. 4.
  7. ^ Rubin, R. J. (1973). U.S. prison library services and their theoretical bases. Occasional Papers, No. 110, p.4.
  8. ^ Gerken, J. L. (2003). Does Lewis v. Casey spell the end to court-ordered improvement of prison law libraries? Law Library Journal, 95(4), p. 491–513.
  9. ^ (Gerken, p. 500)
  10. ^  
  11. ^ McCook, K. (2004). Public Libraries and People in Jail. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 44(1), 26–30
  12. ^ Marshall, A. M. J. (2011). Library services in correctional settings. Information Outlook, 15(1), p. 24–26
  13. ^ Greenway, S. A. (2007). Library services behind bars. Bookmobile Outreach Services, 10(2), p. 43–61.
  14. ^ a b NPR. (2011). Prison library offers place to escape.
  15. ^ a b (Greenway, p. 54)
  16. ^ Darby, L. T. (2004). Libraries in the American penal system. Rural Libraries, 24(2), p. 7–20.
  17. ^ (Greenway, p. 55–56)
  18. ^ (Greenway, p. 56)
  19. ^ a b (Greenway, p. 57)
  20. ^ (Curry, Wolf, Boutilier, & Chan, 2003, p. 141)
  21. ^ (Ings & Joslin, p. 389)
  22. ^ a b c d (Ings & Joslin, p. 402)
  23. ^ (Ings & Joslin, p. 403)
  24. ^ (Ings & Joslin, p. 406)
  25. ^ (Bowe, 2011, p. 429)
  26. ^ (Bowe, p. 430)
  27. ^ a b (Bowe, p. 431)
  28. ^ (Bowe, p. 433)
  29. ^ (Bowe, p. 434)
  30. ^ (Cramard, 2011, p. 544)
  31. ^ (Cramard, p. 545)
  32. ^ (Cramard, p. 551)
  33. ^ (Cramard, p. 553)
  34. ^ (Cramard, p. 555)
  35. ^ (Cramard, p. 556-7)
  36. ^ (Cramard, p. 558)
  37. ^ a b c d e f (Peschers, 2011, p. 521)
  38. ^ a b (Peschers, p. 522)
  39. ^ (Peschers, p. 523)
  40. ^ (Peschers, p. 539)
  41. ^ (Costanzo & Montecchi, 2011, p. 510)
  42. ^ a b (Costanzo & Montecchi, p. 510)
  43. ^ (Costanzo & Montecchi, p. 512)
  44. ^ (Costanzo & Montecchi, p. 514)
  45. ^ (Costanzo & Montecchi, p. 513)
  46. ^ (Nakane, 2011, p. 446-7)
  47. ^ (Nakane, p. 447)
  48. ^ (Nakane, p. 447)
  49. ^ (Nakane, p. 448-9)
  50. ^ (Nakane, p. 449)
  51. ^ (Nakane, p. 449)
  52. ^ (Nakane, p. 453)
  53. ^ (Zybert, 2011, p. 410)
  54. ^ (Zybert, p. 412)
  55. ^ (Zybert, p. 413)
  56. ^ (Zybert, p. 417)
  57. ^ (Zybert, p. 424)
  58. ^ (Pulido, 2011, p. 461)
  59. ^ (Pulido, p. 461)
  60. ^ a b (Pulido, p. 462)
  61. ^ (Pulido, p. 468)


  • Zybert, E. B. (2011). Prison libraries in Poland: Partners in rehabilitation, culture, and education. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 409–426.


  • Bowe, C. (2011). Recent trends in UK prison libraries. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 427–445.
  • Clark, Sheila, and Erica MacCreaigh. (2006). Library services to the incarcerated: applying the public library model in correctional facility libraries. Westport, Conn: Libraries Unlimited.
  • Costanzo, E. & Montecchi, G. (2011). Prison libraries in Italy. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 509–519.
  • Cramard, O. (2011). The long development of prison libraries in France. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 544–562.
  • Curry, A., Wolf, K., Boutilier, S., & Chan, H. (2003). Canadian federal prison libraries: A national survey. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 35(3), p. 141–152.
  • Darby, L. T. (2004). Libraries in the American penal system. Rural Libraries, 24(2), p. 7–20.
  • Gerken, J. L. (2003). Does Lewis v. Casey spell the end to court-ordered improvement of prison law libraries? Law Library Journal, 95(4), p. 491–513.
  • Greenway, S. A. (2007). Library services behind bars. Bookmobile Outreach Services, 10(2), p. 43–61.
  • Ings, C. & Joslin, J. (2011). Correctional Service of Canada Prison Libraries from 1980 to 2010. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 386–408.
  • Lehmann, V. (2011). Challenges and accomplishments in U.S. prison libraries. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 490–508.
  • McCook, de la Peña K. (2004). Public Libraries and People in Jail. Reference and User Services Quarterly, 44(1), 26–30
  • Marshall, A. M. J. (2011). Library services in correctional settings. Information Outlook, 15(1), p. 24–26.
  • Nakane, K. (2011). “Prison libraries” in Japan: The current situation of access to books and reading in correctional institutions. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 446–459.
  • NPR. (2011). Prison library offers place to escape. Retrieved from [1]
  • Peschers, G. (2011). Books open worlds for people behind bars: Library services in prison as exemplified by the Münster Prison Library, Germany’s “Library of the Year 2007.” Library Trends, 59(3), p. 520–543.
  • Pulido, M. P. (2011). Library services in Spanish prisons: Current state of affairs. Library Trends, 59(3), p. 460–472.
  • Rubin, R. J. (1973). U.S. prison library services and their theoretical bases. Occasional Papers, No. 110. Retrieved from


In the late 19th century the first schools, and libraries to support those schools, were opened in prisons in Spain.[58] The current structure of prison libraries in Spain was developed in the 1970s, and Spanish law requires that all correctional institutions have a library.[59] In 1999, libraries were removed from the education department and placed under the cultural department.[60] There is national support for prison libraries and many have seen growth in their collections, training for staff, and the collection of statistics.[60] However, there is still much room for improvement. Prison libraries are still in need of professional library staff, full separation from the education department so more library focused services, such as reference, are provided, and more cooperation and networking between libraries.[61]


In 1989, Poland reformed its prison system from punitive to rehabilitative, which allowed for the development of prison libraries.[53] The goals of the prison libraries are related to the rehabilitation of inmates and, as such, collections are focused on materials that provide support for rehabilitative activities.[54] The extent of a library collection reflects how strongly the prison administration believes in reading’s influence on rehabilitation, but actual titles are chosen by library staff.[55] The libraries are usually operated by education staff, not librarians.[56] While there are problems with Poland’s prison libraries, such as limited space, cataloguing issues, and limited hours of access, there are dedicated employees within the system that value the role education and books play in rehabilitation and are helping to provide inmates with options for leisure activities and social development.[57]


Japanese law mandates that inmates have access to reading materials and there is much regulation as to what reading materials inmates may possess and inspection procedures.[49] However, the only mention of a “prison library” is a provision requiring that the warden make reading materials available.[50] There are also policies and procedures regulating these materials.[51] Education staff, not librarians, manage these collections.[52]

Japan prisons do not have librarians or a designated library space.[46] Some reading materials are provided, but they are spread throughout the prison.[47] There is essentially no control over these materials, there are no partnerships with public libraries, and Japanese inmates prefer to obtain their reading materials through purchase or from friends and family.[48]


The prison administration is responsible for the operation of prison libraries, services are provided by the government or volunteer groups, and professional aspects are monitored by the university and the Italian Library Association.[44] A new interest by the central prison administration will hopefully lead to positive changes in the prison library system.[45] However, according to Costanzo & Montecchi, Italy’s prison libraries are still in need of a central organization for direction, monitoring, and standards.

Prison libraries in Italy have been around since the beginning of the 20th century and were funded by donations.[41] However, it wasn’t until the 1970s, when Italy enacted a law to reform its prisons, did every prison become required to have a library.[42] However, little in the law has changed since then, and libraries are operated by educators rather than professional librarians.[42] There is quite a disparity between prison libraries in Italy, with some being very adequate and beautiful while others are barely operational, and still some prisons have no library at all.[43]


Prison libraries have existed in Germany since the 19th century and were run by the clergy.[37] The libraries contained religious materials from various denominations, which inmates were encouraged to read and discuss.[37] In the 20th century prison libraries were ran by teachers.[37] However, it wasn’t until professional librarians began operating inside prison libraries that they began to really develop.[37] Unfortunately, not all German prison libraries employ a professional librarian.[37] The purpose of the prison library is to provide recreation, support education, and help with the personal development of inmates.[37] Every inmate has the right to access a library and most prisons have a library.[38] However, the law makes no specifics about the organization or contents of the library.[38] And, economic troubles and the closing of the German Library Institute and Commission for Special User Groups have made it difficult for libraries to provide adequate services and the social responsibility of libraries is rarely discussed.[39] But, Münster Correctional Facility Library’s winning of the German Library Award has drawn attention to prison libraries and inspired many to be advocates for library services to those with special needs.[40]


"In order to introduce a larger audience to the institution libraries, the SPIP quickly took the initiative to develop a series of projects around books, literature, and writing."[34] Projects include regularly scheduled workshops, such as writing skills classes, reading groups, reading workshops, and storytelling workshops, and one-time events, such as meetings with writers and illustrators and writing workshops.[35] However, prison libraries are still a work-in-progress and the Prison Administration has declared that in 2008–2010 transforming prison libraries would be a priority.[36]

France has had prison libraries since the mid-19th century.[30] They were established primarily through prison funds or donations made by prisoners.[31] Today, prison libraries are mandated by France's Criminal Procedure Code.[32] However, according to Cramard, these libraries vary in size, location, inmate access time, etc. In addition, while all prisons are required to have a library there is no requirement for them to have a librarian and many have partnered with local public libraries to meet their needs.[33]


Prisons are required by statute to have a library and permit all prisoners to access the library.[25] Unlike most countries, prison libraries in England and Wales are required to staff a professional librarian and there are minimum staffing requirements.[26] The vision of the prison libraries is to provide services similar to those of public libraries.[27] CILIP's Prison Library Group actively supports prison libraries in England and Wales through promotion, policy, advice, continuing education, networking, advocacy, mentoring, publishing, and involvement.[27] Between 2005 and 2008 prison libraries’ funding almost doubled.[28] Prison libraries must meet required standards and are subject to inspection.[29]

England and Wales

However, progress has been made on publishing standards, and most institutional libraries have a procedures manual.[23] In addition, they have been able to establish a Regional Multi-Lingual Collection and a Regional Aboriginal Collection, in response to the diversity of people within the prison system.[24] Finally, some progress has been made in getting library staff back and all new hires are required to be certified library technicians.[22]

The first prison library in Canada was formed in the 19th century.[20] In the 1980s, the Correctional Service of Canada commissioned two reports on institutional libraries throughout Canada, the analysis of which defined the role of prison libraries and made recommendations to support these roles.[21] However, many of the challenges identified in these reports still exist, but many improvements were made until drastic budget and staffing cutbacks were made in 1994.[22] While prison libraries are required to support all correctional programs, including education and access to legal and non-legal materials, they have not been spared budget cuts and are struggling to maintain existing programs.[22] Often funds are spent on materials rather than staff.[22]


International Institutions

Many people who work in prison libraries cite space and funding as major challenges.[17] In a tight economy, where public funding is being cut, prison libraries are no exception. And, it can be difficult to provide up-to-date information and classes with a limited budget and space. Associated with limited budgets are time constraints. Some prison library staff feel they do not have the time to complete all of the tasks they need to because prison libraries are under-staffed.[18] Other challenges include security risks. Some librarians feel like they are guards and other libraries are monitored by correctional officers.[19] Finally, some libraries have to deal with damage and theft of items.[19]


Finally, prison libraries act as positive influences in inmates' lives. It is a safe place within prison and is seen as a valuable place by many inmates. It provides a place of escape from the harsh realities of prison, a place to reflect on one’s life, grow, and find peace, and a place to productively spend free time.[16] Some prison libraries also seek to alter behavior by having book discussion groups.[15]

In addition to educational opportunities, prison libraries can help prisoners have positive and meaningful contact with family. For example, the Jessup Correctional Institute in Maryland started a program that provided books for prisoners to read to their children or grandchildren on visiting days.[14] Other prison libraries have programs in which prisoners are recorded reading stories, and the tapes and books, along with a coloring book and crayons, are sent to their child.[15] Some inmates try to read the same materials their children are reading, so they have something to talk about with them.[14]

"The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the developed world.".[11] These people are cut off from the world and meaningful access to information is vital (Marshall, 2011, p. 24). Research shows a correlation between education and reduced recidivism, and libraries play in an important role in supporting education.[12] Education allows inmates to obtain the skills they need to transition back into society once they are released and libraries can play in an important role in helping inmates learn these skills. Some programs prison libraries offer include, GED instruction, literacy classes, life skills classes, typing instruction, and classes on how to use a library.[13]


As of 2013 the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba has a library of some 18,000 books.[10]

Lewis v. Casey ruled that prisoners do not have an absolute right to a law library. Rather an inmate must show that he was unable to pursue a legal claim because of the inadequacy of the law library.[8] In other words, lack of an adequate law library caused the inmate actual injury. The ruling in Lewis makes it much more difficult to seek improvement to a prison's law library. As one court pointed out, the ability to litigate a claim of denial of access demonstrates that the inmate has no denial of access.[9] However, some believe that Lewis is not as devastating as it appears to be and Bounds v. Smith still remains good law.

State correctional facilities began to see growth in prison libraries in the 1970s when the Library Services and Construction Act was authorized by Congress. In addition, in 1977, Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977), ruled that prisons were required to provide access to people trained in law or law library collections in order to meet the constitutional requirement of meaningful access to the courts. In 1996, Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 804 (1996), limited the requirement placed on correctional facilities. Following Lewis many libraries reduced their collections.[1]

During the Depression prison libraries were expanded.[7] With a decline in industrial demands prisoners became idle and restless and libraries were seen as a way to occupy them. In 1930, a manual for prison libraries was published by the American Correctional Association. The library was believed to be wholesome recreation, which also supported education and mental health, and there was great growth in federal prison libraries for the next four decades.[1]

In 1870, during the Progressive Period and Prison Reform Movement, the Prison Congress began calling for rehabilitation of convicts instead of retribution, and education and rewards for good behaviour.[3] The library was seen as an incentive and only contained items which furthered the reformative goals of the prison.[5] The first manual for prison libraries was published by the ALA in 1915.[6]

America has had prison libraries since 1790.[3] The first state prison library was established in 1802.[3] At the beginning of the 19th century prisons were usually operated by the clergy.[4] The purpose of the library was to increase religious devotion and modify behaviour.

Library books, Guantanamo prison, 2011

United States


  • United States 1
  • Role 2
  • Challenges 3
  • International Institutions 4
    • Canada 4.1
    • England and Wales 4.2
    • France 4.3
    • Germany 4.4
    • Italy 4.5
    • Japan 4.6
    • Poland 4.7
    • Spain 4.8
  • Bibliography 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


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