Thursday, July 7, 2016

Preparing Inmates for Life After Prison :: American Libraries

Preparing Inmates for Life After Prison
Libraries and outreach programs focus on reentry
American Libraries: 6.27.2016 by Terra Dankowski

Jacquie Welsh was looking to undertake a project during her two-year residency at Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL),  so she asked herself the question: “How can we innovate to make our libraries more accessible and more just?” What resulted was Pathways, a program designed to provide resources to those reentering the community after prison.

With more than 2 million adults incarcerated in federal, state, and country prisons, more and more librarians and outreach workers are asking themselves the same question and looking to administer similar services. “Literacy Inside and Out: Services to Incarcerated and Newly-Released Adults and Their Families,” a session sponsored by American Library Association’s Office for Diversity, Literacy, and Outreach Services on Sunday at the Annual Conference and Exhibition in Orlando, Florida, highlighted some of the work being done at detention centers, correctional facilities, and beyond—and the challenges and obstacles this work presents.

The library decided Pathways would have the most impact if it tried to reach those who had been released for less than six months. It partnered with federal and local programs STAR (Supervision to Aid Reentry) and EPIC (Empowering People, Illuminating Change) to find sites and participants. The program focused on digital skills and family reunification, and helped to provide library cards, brochures and explanations of resources tailored to newly released people, and books specific to reentry.

Susan Woodwick, who leads the Hennepin County (Minn.) Library Outreach Department, runs a program that serves a county correctional facility. Hennepin’s program—which Welsh borrowed inspiration from in creating her program—visits the facility every Tuesday and has goals to meet reading and information needs, increase print motivation, stock onsite libraries, fulfill requests, and educate residents.

Leo Hayden, director of reentry with the Orleans Parish (La.) Sheriff Office, is not a librarian but has a partnership with Portland State University’s Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and knows these challenges well. He has taught digital skills in a corrections setting and “established this program where none existed,” he said.  READ MORE @

Reading on the Inside
Programs help incarcerated parents connect with their children through books
American Libraries: 12.08.2014 by Megan Cottrell

Tips for Starting an Intergenerational Reading Program for Incarcerated Parents

1. Connect with someone in jail administration. The most important part of starting a program in your local correctional institution is to find someone who works there who will support it, Hennepin County Library’s Dan Marcou says. Establish a relationship with that person and ask for advice about how to move forward. Listen to everything he or she has to say and use that as your guide to the system, he says. In addition, it’s important to “work with the facility administration to let them know that [your program] is not going to impact the function or safety of the facility,” Marcou says.

2. Remember the setting. NYPL’s Sarah Ball says librarians shouldn’t be afraid of working in a corrections setting, but librarians do need to remember that the security of the facility will come before anything else. Often programs have to be canceled or changed at the last minute because of security concerns.

“Programs have to come second,” says Ball. “Corrections administrators understand that programs do support their goal of safety and security, but security always comes first.”

3. Find volunteers or staff and train them. While some programs like Read to Me use community volunteers for help, Marcou says he also recruits Hennepin County librarians to run the programs to help build connections between the inmates and their local libraries. He notes that anyone brought into the corrections setting may need to go through training and background checks to comply with federal and state laws.

4. Think about your budget. Marcou says a program like Read to Me can be relatively low budget, depending on how it is run. Funding for Read to Me comes from the Friends of the Hennepin County Library and Target Corporation.

The cost depends on the program’s size and frequency. Marcou estimates that the cost for each child is about $5 to buy one to two books apiece, plus another $5 per envelope for postage to send the books and recordings home. Other costs include staff pay for the three program hours that they spend on-site, plus roughly two hours of orientation training. One-time workshops at the jail are also a low-cost option, Marcou says.

5. Stick to the rules. Prison rules may seem imposing or difficult to work with, but Marcou says every rule is there for a reason, and it’s important to work within the system. “We always have to be mindful of the fact that it’s their house,” he says. “Our good intentions are important, but they don’t trump prison regulations. If you believe in helping incarcerated parents, you also need to be willing to go through all of the extra steps to do it.”  READ MORE @

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