The role of the prison library in the reform and rehabilitation process
This study evaluates the contribution made by the prison library to the rehabilitation of adult male offenders. The research was undertaken in ten prison establishments in England and Wales, and examined a diverse sample of the inmate population. A qualitative methodology was employed, using semi-structured interviews. In total, 124 interviews with inmates, 62 interviews with staff and 20 interviews with ex-offenders recently released from custody, were conducted. The project examines different components of prison library operations and their impact upon the rehabilitative process. Principally, the role of the library as an educational resource, as an information provider and as a source for recreational reading are analysed. In addition, the influence of religious material supplied by the library is also discussed. Throughout the study particular reference is made to the value of cognitive-behavioural interventions with offenders. Through such interventions inmates can begin to take responsibility for their own actions and address their own pattern of offending. A library service can support such interventions in three principal ways: empowering the prisoner with information, providing help with a range of practical skills and helping change inmates, attitudes and behaviours. A key factor examined is the potential of the library to provide an appropriate learning environment for prisoners to tackle these issues and internalise pro-social responses. The central conclusion of the study is that there has been a failure of all parties to fully realise the rehabilitative potential of the prison library. Four main factors are identified -a lack of appreciation of the unique environment in which prison libraries operate, the persistence of the view that the prison library is simply another branch of the public library service, the narrow perception of the role of the prison librarian and a failure to integrate the work of the library with the work of the prison.