Literacy for the Justice-Involved and Recently-Released

Libraries offer important services to people who are incarcerated and those who have been recently released from prison or jail. Institutional libraries provide extensive and highly valuable literacy opportunities to those who are incarcerated, while public libraries can play a crucial role in reentry into one’s community.

ALA Resources

National Organizations Supporting Literacy Programs

 Resources for Recently-Released Individuals

Resources for Juveniles who are Incarcerated

  • ALA’s Great Stories Club is a grant-based program focused on engaging underserved teens through thematic reading and discussion. Participating facilitators receive training and resources to host impactful programs, and teen participants receive a free copy of each book that is discussed. Reading lists, discussion questions, and other resources are available online for free.
  • Literacy for Incarcerated Teens, a community-based, non-profit organization committed to combating illiteracy in the court-involved children and young adults in New York, has developed a Suggested Books List and Activity Guide for teachers and librarians in detention centers.

Resources for Juveniles with Parents who are Incarcerated

  • Children of Prison Inmates – This program encourages children and incarcerated persons to read more through storytelling, book giveaways, and voice recordings to share with family members.

Research, Reports & Data

  • How to Unlock the Power of Prison Education was written by Stephen J. Steurer for the ETS Center for Research on Human Capital and Education.  Written in 2020, this report highlights the reasons for the high rates of re-arrests by those released from prison.  To combat the problem, he proposes actionable recommendations in prison education.
  • The National Institute of Corrections’ Library offers numerous online resources including state population and facility data and statistics, reports, and webinars covering a wide range of relevant topics.
  • RTI International’s Re-entry Education Toolkit offers education providers guidelines, tools, and resources to effectively implement the Reentry Education Framework. This framework’s five critical components are program infrastructure, strategic partnerships, education services, transition processes, and sustainability.

College/Correspondence Courses for Adults who are Incarcerated

graph showing that people in prison are disproportionately illterate
Source: Prison Policy Initiative analysis of the U.S. Department of Education National Assessment of Adult Literacy (NAAL) Survey, 2003. (Graph: Corey Michon, 2016)  People in prison are disproportionately illiterate | Prison Policy Initiative