The goal of The New York Public Library's Correctional Services Program is to get books into the hands of incarcerated New Yorkers and to provide inmates accurate information on useful community resources upon release.
NYPL's Correctional Services consists of three staff members and several outstanding volunteers. Four times a week we go out and run library services at Rikers Island and Manhattan Detention Complex, while delivering a range of literacy programs at juvenile jails and state and federal prisons. In partnership with the Department of Corrections and supported in part by funds from the New York State Library’s Family Literacy Library Services grant program, Correctional Services runs a book recording project with detained parents called Daddy & Me. Incarcerated parents participate in early literacy workshops followed by a recording session where they can make a CD of themselves reading a favorite book to their kids.
Writing In Prison
Recently we have been accepting writing from people incarcerated in jails and prisons in New York. When we transcribe the writing, we will put the work here: Writing From Prison. Check out what we have so far. If you have any questions about contacting one of the writers showcased, please let us know. Also, check out The Voice From Inside blog by John Wannamaker, currently detained in MDC Brooklyn. To get an inside look at the work we do, please check out our NYPL blog channel, Freedom of Thought, where you can hear from members of our amazing team of staff and volunteers.
Each week Correctional Services receives roughly 60 letters from inmates throughout the US requesting information on a variety of topics. The success and credibility of our program depends largely on how well, and how quickly, we answer inmate letters. Inmates from around the country have consistently benefited from the excellent work of our volunteers from Pratt Institute, Queens College, the University of Michigan and the Brooklyn Public Library. We appreciate our strong network of volunteers in helping to sustain this important work. *We are not currently accepting new volunteer applicants. Please refer to this page for updates on our volunteer needs.
The vast majority of our collection is made up of donated books. We ask interested parties to please visit our regularly updated Amazon Wish List to see what we are looking for. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Due to some wonderfully abundant donations recently, we are currently accepting donations of only a limited scope of topics, please take a look at our donation needs and procedures here.
The Correctional Services budget to purchase new books is supported by the exceptional gifts of our own and other great institutions. In Winter 2011 and Spring 2013 we were offered generous funds by NYPL to use for collection development. Similarly, the non-profit Literacy for Incarcerated Teens (LIT) has supported us with funds of 3,000 dollars in 2011 for the establishment of library collections for teens at Rikers and other State run detention facilities.
We are also always looking for ways to fund additional staff to manage our libraries and programs in jails in prisons. As stated above, we are a staff of 3 and rely heavily on volunteers. It would help the program immensely if we were able to hire additional staff from our volunteer corps. If you wish to donate directly to this effort, we can accept checks made out to NYPL CORRECTIONAL SERVICES of any amount.
With support from the library, Correctional Services publishes Connections, an annual guide and directory of resources in New York City available to help former inmates when they are leaving correctional facilities. Connections also serves as a guide on preparing for the world of work. We are so proud that is beyond a doubt the most exhaustive re-entry guidebook in New York City.
The booklet is free to those incarcerated in New York State prisons and local jails, and to agencies that help to provide service to former inmates.
A few of the organizations dedicated to helping the formerly incarcerated can be found here.
The library prints 8,000 copies, which are sent to federal and state correctional facilities, and to local city government agencies upon request, including community based organizations serving the prison population. Because of our limited print run, we ask that community based organizations try to rely on the pdf version of Connections (see below) to use with their clients. Relevant pages can be easily printed. This will allow us to have enough print copies to fill requests from soon-to-be-released inmates who have no access to the Internet at their facilities. Thank you for your understanding.
Monthly statistics on inmates served can be found here.
For information about these services, contact Correctional Services at 212-340-0971