To: Mayor Vincent C. Gray

Mayor Gray: Bring a Library to the DC Jail

Access to information is a basic human right. The DC Jail, which holds around 1,400 people at all times, has a law library but does not have a fully operational library with books providing educational, vocational, and entertainment resources.

Please join us in signing and circulating this petition to encourage Mayor Vincent C. Gray to establish an accessible, book cart-based library with a paid librarian at Washington, DC’s Central Detention Facility this budget season.

Why is this important?

A jail library provides a low-budget, high-outcome resource for education and job preparation for those who are incarcerated. The DC Jail Library Coalition encourages Mayor Vincent C. Gray to provide for the introduction of a library to the jail - staffed by DC Public Libraries - because access to books provides incarcerated people resources for literacy, education, knowledge and job readiness that will ease their reentry into society, and reduce the likelihood of them re-offending and returning to the prison system.

Literacy is a skill that directly correlates to many necessities and successes in life, and studies suggest that at least half of inmates are functionally illiterate.

“If I were to summarize my experience at the prison library,” wrote a librarian from a Philadelphia prison, “I would say I met inmates who started as reluctant visitors to the library, and then went from being regular readers to voracious readers.”

Many inmates and former inmates say that reading provides a way for people who are incarcerated to experience a positive escape from their surroundings and a release from the anxiety, depression and isolation associated with imprisonment. In such an environment, a library brings hope.

“People always want something to read in the jail, that’s one thing I know,” said a former inmate of the DC Jail. “People do be wanting books over there.”

Several nearby Maryland and Virginia counties - Anne Arundel, Fairfax, Montgomery, and Prince George’s - as well as many other jurisdictions around the country, have professionally staffed and funded libraries in their jail facilities. Washington, DC should join the positive examples set by these counties, and establish a library, staffed by at least one trained DC Public Libraries employee, in the DC Jail.