The Colorado State Library’s Institutional Library Development unit serves over 13,000 adult offenders in 19 Department of Corrections facilities statewide, and 900 residents in 11 Division of Youth Services facilities statewide.
In keeping with the public library model of patron services, our library collections represent broad and varied points of view in a variety of accessible formats. Our libraries also offer a variety of public library-style programs ranging from book clubs and Spanish classes to resumé writing and literacy.
The Colorado correctional libraries hold intellectual freedom and the Prisoner’s Right to Read in uniquely creative tension with the demands of security in a sometimes volatile environment.
The Colorado State Library’s Institutional Library Development unit and the staff of the correctional facility libraries believe that libraries have the power to change the world “one reader at a time.” Many of us find prisoners to be the most appreciative and enthusiastic library users we’ve ever worked with, and serving them to be the most gratifying work we’ve ever done.
Re-entry and Recidivism
Reflective of the prison population nationwide, 97% of Colorado’s incarcerated offenders will eventually be released. Also reflective of national trends, over 50% these individuals will return to prison within five years. This degree of recidivism produces devastating social consequences for families, victims, and offenders themselves, and entails a more than three-quarters of a billion dollar annual price tag for Colorado taxpayers.
Successful reentry means never returning to prison. It depends on numerous interrelated factors, including education, housing, finding employment, staying healthy, and reconnecting with family and friends. Colorado correctional libraries contribute to reducing recidivism by:
- Providing current, quality recreational and information reading materials, music, and video recordings that help offenders constructively manage their leisure time and help them stay connected to events and cultural trends in the outside world.
- Providing materials and programs on specific reentry subjects, like interview skills, parenting, getting a driver’s license, personal finance, and eating healthily on a budget.
- Offering the Read to the Children program at every Department of Corrections facility, which helps offenders stay involved in their children’s lives by encouraging their children to read.
- Giving offenders a wide range of choices, which allows them to exercise good decision-making and to explore previously unimagined possibilities and opportunities for themselves.
- Out for Life: Restorative Librarianship in the Colorado Department of Corrections - Library Research Service Fast Facts
- Out for Life: How Your Library Can Help (video)
Offenders learn about ways in which their prison library resources and librarian can help them plan for release. The video also talks about all of the ways in which libraries in the community can continue to assist post-release.
- Public Library Collaboration
Parenting from Prison - for Children of Offenders
- Books recommended for children with an incarcerated parent
- The National Resource Center on Children and Family of the Incarcerated
- "A List of Books About A Parent in Prison" by Kerri L Clopton and Katheryn K. East from Early Childhood Education Journal (2008) 36:199-200
- An Inmate's Daughter, by Jan Walker (2006) ISBN: 0971416192 / 978-0971416192.
- The Sesame Street educational tool kit, "Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration," is recommended for families and children ages 3-8 of an incarcerated parent.
- "Breaking the Cycle: Prison Reading Program Encourages Literacy" (PDF) by Diane Walden, Colorado Libraries 30(4), 2004.
Intergenerational low-literacy is fact. This prison reading program helps break the cycle of low literacy and criminal activity, directly addressing the situation of parenting from prison head-on. It could also be adapted for non-custodial parents in many situations.
- Read to the Children program in correctional libraries.
- Want to check out Read to the Children and One Book 4 Colorado videos? View them on Colorado Virtual Library.
Jobs in Colorado Correctional Libraries
Working in Prison
- Correctional Librarian Resources
- How Librarians Help College Students at Colorado Correctional Facilities (PDF)
This Fast Facts report was compiled by the Library Research Service from a 2005 survey of Colorado Department of Corrections college students. The report highlights the crucial role prison librarians play in these students' success.