ALA welcomes Prison Libraries Act of 2023
For Immediate Release
Deputy Director, Communications
Public Policy & Advocacy Office
American Library Association
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The American Library Association praised the Prison Libraries Act, introduced today by Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-MO-5th), along with co-leads Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18th) and Rep. Shontel Brown (D-OH-11th), and 25 cosponsors. The bill would establish a grant program within the Department of Justice to provide library services to incarcerated individuals to advance reintegration efforts, reduce recidivism and increase educational opportunities.
ALA President Lessa Kanani'opua Pelayo-Lozada said, “By providing the freedom to learn and explore life beyond the confines of prison walls, the Prison Libraries Act gets to the heart of libraries’ mission: equitable access to information for everyone.
“Like libraries in every context, prison libraries make a world of difference through the critical services they offer beyond books. Funding provided by the Prison Libraries Act would expand educational services and improve prospects for those incarcerated members of our communities, who are often afforded the least opportunity – and perhaps the greatest need – in society.”
The Prison Libraries Act would provide grants to prisons to update materials, hire qualified librarians and support digital literacy and career readiness training. The legislation would be authorized at $10 million per year through 2029, focusing on creating libraries in prisons without libraries and in prisons that otherwise would not have the means to scale library services.
Investing in prison library programming would reduce the economic impact of recidivism by enabling incarcerated individuals to begin the process of reintegrating into the workforce. Research shows a strong correlation between participation in correctional education programs and greater success in rehabilitation and reentry for formerly incarcerated individuals. According to a 2023 report from the Prison Policy Initiative, more than one and a quarter million people are detained in state and federal prisons.