Prison is not the most likely setting for a radio show about libraries, but when I discovered librarian Glennor Shirley’s blog, I knew that we had to include this little-known aspect of the U.S. library system in our series. With over 1.4 million people incarcerated in our country, prison libraries are often inmates’ best link to the outside world. There, they can research the legal system, take classes, participate in book discussions, gain their GED, and, of course, check out a book for recreational reading. The discussion we sat in on at Maryland’s Jessup Correctional Facility with author Warren St. John was insightful and often pretty close to the bone. The men talked about St. John’s book, Outcasts United, but also about their own experiences and lives. I couldn’t imagine that conversation taking place anywhere else in the prison.
The second part of our program focused on Fairfax County, Virginia’s program Changing Lives Through Literature. Just as at Jessup, these young women were articulate and thoughtful about the importance of reading and getting a second chance. This partnership between Fairfax County library and the Department of Corrections isn’t an obvious one, but with only 10% of the participating juveniles showing up back in the court system, it seems to be a smart one. To learn more about this program, click here.
And congratulations to Changing Lives Through Literature session leader Wendi Kaufman, who was just named one of WJLA-TV Toyota’s “Tribute to Working Women” for her work in CLTL!