S.C. Scraps Innovative Prison Library System

By Chepesiuk, Ron | American Libraries, June 1995 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

S.C. Scraps Innovative Prison Library System


Chepesiuk, Ron, American Libraries


Prior to Apr. 1, the South Carolina state prison library system was recognized as one of the country's finest and most progressive. In fact, it was recently lauded by AL contributor and former prison librarian Richard Lee (AL, Feb., p. 129). But that vaunted program is now history, thanks to some sweeping changes that came virtually overnight.

The director of the prison library system--gone. The innovative pet therapy program--gone. The 10,000-square-foot library building in Columbia--emptied of all but one librarian. All of this happened in April in less than three weeks.

Librarians within the system who were contacted by AL say they don't want to comment publicly, not only from fear of retribution but because they feel shell-shocked and are still trying to figure out what happened.

It's a feeling shared by others in the state's government. "Whenever I talk with somebody [in state government], they just shake their heads and say, `What's going on in the Department of Corrections?'" one state official explained.

Sources believe it has a lot to do with politics and the agenda of South Carolina's new Republican governor, David Beasley, who assumed office in January. "Beasley believes the public wants government to get tough with criminals," one source explained. "That's why we are seeing all of these rapid changes in the Department of Corrections."

In early April, prison library personnel received a memo from the deputy director of the Department of Corrections, ordering them to remove all the pets from their offices. The following week, another memo told them to remove the animals from all prison libraries in the state.

Prison librarians used the pets to help relieve the boredom and the stress of incarceration. The program cost little money, and studies have shown that adults and children suffer from "touch deprivation," which the pets help to combat.

The animals were kept in the building housing the Division of Library Services staff and its books. Now only one librarian, the cataloger, is still working in the building. The others have been transferred. Meanwhile, the Department of Education is reported to be moving into the building soon.

Gone as well will be the 17 inmates who worked as trustees. "They earned the privilege and it gave them self-esteem," explained one state official familiar with the State Prison Library. "What's going to happen now, given that many of them were violent offenders serving sentences of 20 years or more?"

No longer can the library staff simply choose books and put them in the state' 17 prison libraries. Every book has to b reviewed by the state superintendent of education, the Department of Education's budget director, and the library system's advisory council. Every book purchased with a recent $13,000 grant underwent the scrutiny of the cumbersome review process. "Many books are rejected for reasons unknown, and they don't call that censorship," scoffed one state official.

Reforms bring on problems

Reforms are needed in the South Carolina state prison system, say sources, but they predict that the hard line changes, such as the ones that have come to the prison library system, are going to lead to major problems. In April, prisoners took hostage to protest new rules that made them cut their hair and shave facial hair. The hostages were released, but the tension remains.

Most sources believe, however, that the changes are permanent. So what kind of future does the South Carolina prison library system have?

"There will be no progress," explained one source. "The only thing the librarians will be able to do is to make books available to the prisoners. But the majority of prisoners in South Carolina have just a sixth-grade education. There is no money for reading programs. We're going to have a lot of angry men either who are inside prison or who will be leaving prison. Isn't that sad?"

Lease Proposal Rejected For Wichita Branch

Despite suggestions that racism was a factor, high costs appear to be why the Wichita (Kans.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

S.C. Scraps Innovative Prison Library System
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?