Prison Libraries Make a Difference in Colorado
Scafuri, Jenna, Corrections Today
The Colorado Department of Corrections (CDOC) has taken major steps to reduce recidivism and improve inmate literacy thanks to the extraordinary efforts of Eva Hallock, Diana Reese and Diane Walden, regional librarians for CDOC. With more than 40 years of combined experience in prison libraries, the women have established many ground-breaking initiatives that have not only made a difference for prison libraries in Colorado, but across the field of correctional librarianship. Among their many accomplishments, they have successfully trained CDOC staff in correctional librarianship, developed a special intranet and library software system, assisted in the drafting and adoption of a policy by the American Library Association, and established programs with public libraries that help bridge the library services gap for ex-offenders in the community.
According to Hallock, Reese and Walden, 92 percent of CDOC inmates use their general libraries. The experienced librarians make sure that the libraries remain well-stocked with current and relevant materials that meet the inmates' needs, including books in large print, audio books, talking books and books for adult new readers. The libraries also provide inmates with materials that support their self-education and self-improvement efforts, as well as planning for reentry and transition into the community. The librarians indicated that CDOC spends at least 10 percent of the libraries' book budget on materials specific to reentry needs, thus improving inmates' opportunity for success after release.
Hallock began her career in corrections as a library technician at the Denver Women's Correctional Facility in 2007. "I wanted the opportunity to work with this population and give them a chance to be treated like regular people," she said. "Some of them have made terrible decisions, but they have the potential to make better ones. I want them to realize that." Hallock initiated the Free to Learn project with the Denver Public Library, which provides a space and time for female ex-offenders to use the library after release from prison.
"I had no idea that accepting a position as a librarian with CDOC in 1990 would launch me on such a rewarding career path," Reese said. Through Reese's efforts, CDOC became the first to develop and implement a secure, remotely-hosted library management system in prison libraries that provides offenders access to legal resources and databases. …