The Canadian Library Association (CLA) and the Canadian Association of Law Libraries (CALL/ACBD) recently wrote a joint letter to top federal government officials to uphold the fundamental right of people who are incarcerated to read, learn, and access information:
Literacy and the prison library play an important role inside institutions as well as in reintegration planning. The prison library has the opportunity to mirror the outside world and help prepare the incarcerated person for release.
People serving their sentences have not given up the right to learn and to access information, including legal information. Inmates should therefore have access to materials, services, and opportunities to develop literacy skills, pursue personal and cultural interests, and engage in life-long learning that properly-resourced prison libraries provide.
Qualified, trained and paid staff should work with the collections to meet the education, recreation and rehabilitation needs of the prisoners. The CLA and CALL/ACBD are calling for a renewed focus and reallocation of resources to allow libraries in prison to provide access to books, information, and related relevant programming that can contribute to safety and success both within and outside correctional institutions.
The CLA/CALL intervention was in response to a CBC News story about cuts to library hours and library staff in a number of federal correctional facilities.
The letter was sent to Don Head, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, The Hon. Steven Blaney, Minister of Public Safety, and The Hon. Peter MacKay, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.
Both associations have committees that work on issues surrounding the provision of library services to prisoners.