By Nicholas Thieme | Atlanta Journal-Constitution | May 11, 2019
Four prisons have libraries with at least 10 books per inmate. Another four have less than four per person.
Those meager offerings aren’t for lack of demand. Every book at Phillips State Prison is lent out about twice a year, on average. Their condition reflects their constant handling. A note in the March 2019 monthly summary at Phillips State Prison reported: “If (inmates) do find a book or periodical they want, it is unbelievably worn and tattered.” Phillips’ library had the fewest books checked out per inmate that month.
The AJC’s findings come as policy makers around the country and in Washington have been reducing sentences for non-violent offenders, and searching for alternative forms of rehabilitation.
Several studies have shown that books, often overlooked in that debate, have contributed to lower recidivism rates. A book-based alternative sentencing program in Massachusetts showed how books reduce recidivism. Only 19% of inmates enrolled in that program reoffended, compared with 45% of a control group. The RAND Corporation has also published similar studies showing that education programs lead to huge decreases in the risk of reoffending.
Years of zero funding for prison libraries in Georgia and a reliance on donations to stock the shelves contributed to the poor state of book availability in the state, the AJC found.
PHOTO CAPTIONS FROM TOP TO BOTTOM
Kosha Tucker is a staff attorney with ACLU Georgia. Georgia prisoners have wildly varying access to books, an AJC analysis of library catalogs shows.
The success board is shown as inmates work in background at Braille Program at Central State Prison in Macon on Thursday, October 26, 2017. Braille program turns inmates into transcribers and transforms textbooks into books for the visually impaired read.
Inmates at Phillips State Prison wait in line for lunch in the cafeteria Thursday, October 27, 2011.
A look at Phillips State Prison in Buford Monday, Oct. 15, 2007.
Inmates at Phillips State Prison make their way to the cafeteria Thursday, October 27, 2011.