Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Prisoners and Reentry

The high cost of incarceration, and the high rate of recidivism, approx. 66% are rearrested within 3 years, has made public officials look at developing programs to help inmates make more successful transition back to their communities. The Office of Justice web site list many national and federal resources.

The Maryland Correctional Education Library web site has information on topics like, Looking for a Job, A Place to Stay, Getting Your Driver's License, Vital Records, Disability benefits

Prison Libraries can have direct impact on the reentry process by setting up Career and Transition Resources in their libraries. Lots of materials are on the Internet. They can download these information for the inmates. Libraries can initiate career fairs and invite potential employers to visit and talk to future employees. Reentry collection should consist of materials that include, personal development, getting GED, resume writing, family relationship, anger management, government grants, financial management, and lots of trade books. The past year I purchased lots of books on landscaping, roofing, plumbing, airconditioning, automechanics, starting your own business, wiring, construction, deckbuilding etc. Very very popular among the inmates were, Commercial Driver's License books and cd rom, and Mavis Beacon Typing.

I request that some public libraries send me their publicity brochures, as an encouragement for the inmates to visit their libraries when they reenter society. Many of these brochures list workshops on job hunting or career planning.


1 comment:

Brenda Vogel said...

One major strategy to lower the nation's prison population is to reduce recidivism. Transition and reentry programming that can lead to effective reintegration of ex-offenders into the home community has been embraced by correctional agencies nationwide. This effort promoted by legislation and federal funding also attempts to steel against further degradation of the home community to which 650,000 offenders return each year. The reentry concept emphasizes literacy, job readiness and life skills training for offenders before their return home.

Transition/reentry programming usually takes place within the framework of the dehumanizing grip of the incarceration experience that includes the embargo of digital information, censorship of information and removal of books and magazines along with restrictions on prisoner’s reading and library use. The library must be considered as a major contributor to the motif of effective reintegration yet this program has not gained the recognition, sanction or support of reentry policy makers or advocates.

A correctional library has always been an oasis in a desert of misery it is a humanizing, enlightening force in the life of each prisoner who will eventually be released. It is in the library that a prisoner can learn how to seek-and-find information, evaluate information sources, gain information and critical decision-making skills that provide choices and a foundation for a productive life.

An active prison library with a digital information center and an enterprising librarian can help eliminate the numbing, mindless effect of the incarceration experience on the offender and restore the energy and hope needed by the ex-offender to aspire to live a life that values good citizenship.

The Prison Library Primer: A Program for the Twenty-First Century by Brenda Vogel MLS, is a practical guide to understanding how to operate a vital prison library program. The historical narrative of the prison library is prologue for a librarian or library advocate and is followed by a smörgåsbord of practical library science tools and resources and prison centric solutions for maintaining an effective user-centered library program that will enrich both the offender and the facility and complement the reintegration effort.

The Prison Library Primer is an immersion course in demystifying the security requirements, the regulations and the mythology that surrounds prison programming. Exposing the challenges unique to this service, Vogel connects the dots between the myopic isolation of the prison mission and the spirit and generosity of outside community library service. She suggests that the library be the facility’s focal point for readying the offender for the return to home and encourages the resourceful librarian to introduce the offender to the Internet through an Information Skills Training Curriculum included in the text.

The Prison Library Primer: A Program for the Twenty-First Century is published by The Scarecrow Press, Inc. The book is available on and
Brenda Vogel MLS, retired after 26 years as the Coordinator of Maryland Correctional Education Libraries for the Maryland State Department of Education. An outspoken advocate for prison library services, Vogel was named Library Journal's Librarian of the Year in 1989. She is the author of Down for the Count: A Prison Library Handbook (Scarecrow, 1995), Just Desserts a screenplay about capital punishment truths and numerous articles in correctional and library periodicals. She is a member of The Corrections Professional Board of Advisors.