Sunday, 9 August 2009

Issue 11 - Could we build more libraries and fewer prisons?

11/ A large number of people in UK prisons (around 3 in 5 according to one prison librarian) have reading problems or dyslexia. There needs to be research into the connection between difficulties with literacy and eventual crime to help people before they resort to crime. Access to good help with reading and communication difficulties needs to be a priority. Wouldn't it be great if by addressing this issue, we could build more libraries and fewer prisons?

  • Do you have any experience of this?

  • Do you know of good research about this?

  • How do you feel about this?

  • How can 'Word Nerds' help on a local/National/International scale

  • How can we use the internet to help?

  • What do we know that could help governments to deal with this issue?


  1. please leave comments on this and any other issue that interests you (they're all listed in the first post - linked to by the link above this post.) I have already been asked to write articles or do interviews for a number of publications over the next few weeks and I cannot raise these issues without a few more opinions. Thank you.

  2. People suffering from structural disadvantages in society such as poor education are left without any means to succeed. Therefore crime is the only means to compete in the consumer driven world and its glittering array of prizes. More and better education through parenting, better schools and, yes more libraries, would be a massive step in the right direction in my opinion.

  3. I know you have a lot of academic experience in this area. Thank you for that comment.

  4. Thank you for this, point 11 is a massive issue, speaking from a mental health perspective the issue is just as tragic. The proportion of prisoners with mental health problems is something in the region of twice that of the general population. Add literacy and numeracy problems to the equation and you see a group of people forgotten and unaided, unable to escape their circumstances.

    Something as simple as an after school book club might change a child's life

  5. We might begin by looking at this research (Link is to the Education Resources Information Center (ED358375 - Adult Literacy in America: A First Look at the Results of the National Adult Literacy Survey). n.b. This research refers specifically to adult literacy in the U.S.

  6. ...and while we're about it, we might just post the link.

  7. I did used to work for a library that ran a branch at the local jail. There our biggest problem was theft of materials. Not by the inmates as one might assume, but by the guards. Some inmates did help out with the annual library book sale.

    The library was also on the local "community service list." What this meant is someone that had committed some sort of minor crime and was required to perform community service could volunteer their time at the library shelving books and straightening shelves.

    These are some ideas to ponder as we think about the connection between libraries and prisons.

  8. this is all great stuff chaps. Thanks. I'm keeping all these topics open so if anything else occurs to you, please feel free to chime in. I'll pull all the info together in about a month and see if any of the issues is researched enough to draw up an action plan.

    Great to see this subject starting to buzz. There has to be a better way to deal with prison overcrowding than building more prisons.

    As an example, a lot of what I'm hearing is that as societies we're missing a lot of what people need in terms of help with language skills. This is making it harder for them to find work. We're then throwing ads at them about what they 'should' own to have respect in society and throwing our hands up in horror when they steal to get that respect.

    Look forward to reading more on this. Thanks everyone

  9. Having more libraries would be a really good thing. However, when it relates to crime we, as a society, need to reach out to young and old in areas of economic difficulty. People with learning disabilities will turn to crime as a means to an end but if we get to them at a young age, help them, show them the benefits of reading and what the libraries have to offer then demand will build for those additional libraries. Unfortunately libraries here in the States are viewed as not cool so perception needs to change.

  10. About 20 years ago, the State of Texas conducted a brief experiment that proved to be rather successful, however a later adminstration closed down the project.

    State Penetentory inmates who had committed non-violent crimes were given the option of going to college instead of sitting in prison.

    It was considered a bargain alternative as the cost of confining a prisoner was about $50,000 a year, while sending the person to college had a yearly price tag of about $25,000 including modest living expenses. Mind you, that was 20 years ago.

    This adventurous foray into socializing non-violent felons, I.E. elevating their ability to earn honest livings, could have been extended over the entire U.S.A., thus changing for the better our social fabric.

    A pity the program was shut down. It's time for more progessive thinking. Here is another instance of a progressive program in Massachusetts

    Thanks for opening this discussion!

  11. Vitae,

    Thanks for that. Really valuable information. :)


  12. Support for the Word Nerd Army...

    A blog post from author George LaCas ( @George9Writer )about this issue -


Thanks for commenting. Can't wait to read your thoughts. Know someone who'd make a good Knight of the Month? Leave their details and a reason with your comment.

How The Word Nerd Army Was Born

A group of tweeple agreed with the idea that:
The Pen is Mightier Than the Pin-up