A $2 million grant has been announced to aid incarcerated people’s access to more books, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
The grant funds a project between the San Francisco Public Library and the American Library Association (ALA). As part of this grant, the ALA will start a national survey to identify what library models are in operation.
The San Francisco Public Library system currently has an annual budget of $180,000 allotted to the San Francisco Library jail book program, the story published on March 20 noted.
Many incarcerated people have limited or no internet access. “Books take my mind out of here,” said Dominique West, a San Francisco jail library patron.
The grant could impact thousands of people who work in and patronize detention center libraries, the newspaper said.
“It’s very hard for people to get access to books if there’s not a dedicated budget line,” said Jeannie Austin, a San Francisco librarian aide. “A lot of prisons don’t budget for libraries. They budget for ‘programs’ and then all the programs are kind of vying for the same pot.”
Some institutions prohibit certain genres of books and monitor what information is allowed within the prisons. Prison Legal News reports books barred from entering California prisons include: “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party,” by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin Jr., and “Game of Thrones,” a series by George R.R. Martin.
Some prisons refuse to accept donated used books, which on occasion were used to smuggle drugs in to inmates.
“Access to reading materials and information in general had really eroded in our detention facilities,” said Tracie Hall, ALA executive director.
The Davis Books to Prisoners program, founded by University of California Davis students, attempted to send “Solitary: Unbroke by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement,” by Albert Woodfox to an incarcerated person. According to the article, the book never made it to the requester.
“We don’t get that much sunlight,” said Joshua Soto, a federal detainee. “It’s a stressful time for us, and these books, they take away a little bit of that pain.”
The San Francisco jail book program responds to requests from incarcerated people all over California. The program also keeps up-to-date titles to send to people who request them, the article stated.
“We have a great budget from the public,” said Rachel Kinnnon, Jail and Reentry Services manager. “We choose the primary-based patron request, so people are getting the books that they want to read.”