Locked Up Libraries

A Critique of Canadian Prison Library Policy


  • Michelle De Agostini None


Access to library services in prison is a minimum human rights requirement. These services impact people both while they are incarcerated and as they reintegrate into the community. Since the 1980s, there have been recommendations to improve library services to people in Canadian federal prisons. Although some advancements have been made, recommendations for the improvement of library and educational services in Canadian prisons have been largely ignored by prison administrators and policy makers. Canadian prison libraries at both the federal and provincial-territorial level are still underfunded, understaffed, and sorely lacking in basic library materials, making it impossible for prison librarians to meet the minimum human rights requirements of the people they serve. This article makes recommendations for changes to existing Canadian prison library services and policies, with a focus on providing library services in correctional institutions which support the needs of the prison population. In addition, this article highlights the need and provides recommendations for public, academic, and special librarians to support prison librarians and the people they serve.






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