The message below is from Prison Librarian, Jameson Rohrer who is checking in with an update about our ongoing petition to donate books to Centinela State Prison in Imperial, California.
The inmates have been really excited with the continuous donations we have been receiving since we started this. The inmates are aware that my budget is limited, and why I ask for so many donations. On a daily basis I get feedback about how the libraries at Centinela are the best libraries they have used while incarcerated. They do appreciate the variety of books we have been receiving and how our collections have grown in a short time. The 3rd of the 5 libraries was just opened recently and the inmates are really excited about that library, because the library was closed for well over a year due to construction and moving the library to a bigger location.
I have come to realize how much time and energy I have spent seeking out donations, and getting them processed into our catalog system, barcodes and processed for circulation. Even though it can be overwhelming at times with the volume of work to do, the effort of putting together collections of books and materials to men who really have had limited or no access to a library in their lives provides me with a feeling of worth and accomplishment. This work is important because the data shows that the higher an inmates’ education is when they leave incarceration, the lower the chance that they come back to incarceration. Correctional libraries can and do provide essential services and resources for inmates, especially with adequate collections. This is a benefit for the inmate of course, taxpayers, and society in general. Your efforts to help educate these men through better library access has the potential to greatly reduce recidivism.
So far we have obtained almost 6,000 donations. What an incredible number! With those 6,000 donations, we have been able to increase the collections of 2 of the 5 libraries on prison grounds to reach the minimum of 5,000 books per library. One of those libraries now has 6,200 total books, and another hit the 5,200 mark. Within the last month we began placing some of the donations in the 3rd of 5 libraries and are already at the 1,300 book mark. The donations you have sent us are being put to use and are being read. We are setting circulation records almost every month now thanks to your efforts! Sadly, we are still in need of thousands of more books. Fortunately we are making fantastic progress.
We recently have also started a new library service. We are using the inmate educational tutors to provide copies of the list of books we have available to inmates within the housing units. They provide the titles they want to the tutors, and the tutors come to the library. The inmate library clerks and myself pull the titles requested and send them back to the housing units with the tutors. How is that for library service!While they cannot browse the books, they enjoy having access to the library materials without having to go to the library. Some inmates don’t want to come to the library, have a physical disability, too sick and confined to their cell or they have lost the privilege of going to the library in-person. This would not be possible without your donations and support.
Thank you so much for all the support you have provided for these inmates! Even though you may not hear about the successes of inmates after they leave incarceration, know you helped create libraries and an environment that encourages them to spend their time productively. Thank you again and let’s keep those donations coming!
Jameson Rohrer, MLIS
Centinela State Prison