Day Room at Juvenile Detention Facility, Greenville, Washington County, Mississippi.
Library at Alameda County Juvenile Detention Center, San Leandro, California.

By reading books in the Hall I have opened up a place in my mind I never knew existed.

– T., former juvenile detainee at Alameda County

Books are one of the best and most productive ways to escape a less than favorable environment. Most would assume their presence in a juvenile detention facility to be vital, but some institutions restrict them. The day room of the Greenville, Mississippi, Juvenile Detention Facility is not the only room with no books. After one child flushed a book down the toilet several years ago, all the youths were punished: books are forbidden everywhere except classrooms. On the opposite end of this spectrum is the Alameda County Juvenile Detention Center in San Leandro, California. Providing library services since 1999, the Write To Read program implemented at the facility has given kids access to a rather impressive library with plenty of natural light. Youths can also check out the books and bring them to their cells.

7 thoughts on “Literature While Locked Up

  1. I find it ridiculous that an institution would PROHIBIT books from the cells. The fact that this rule stems from one child’s actions truly demonstrates the punitive nature of many of these facilities. One clogged toilet is not worth hundreds of hours of boredom that could be spent on a productive activity like reading.

  2. How is a child to grow and expand their mind without books and stories to learn from? Especially when they are stuck in a facility that removes all productive interactions that happen in daily life. Books would only be beneficial to a child, so why prohibit them!? This is a ridiculous punishment.

  3. I believe that the youth in these detention facilities are given a great opportunity with the library. By reading, they can channel their energy into something positive and very beneficial to their lives. People in detention facilities are human too, and therefore,they deserve the right to educational resources as much as students in public schools or universities.

  4. One child’s action to flush a book down the toilet should not serve as punishment for everyone else. For whatever reason this child decided to get rid of the book, it definitely did not mean others would follow his actions. Many youths actually like to read on their spare time or as a recreational activity. Especially in a Juvenile Detention Facility, I’d like to think there is not too much to do to pass time. Because of this child’s misdoings, his burden has and will continue to be reflected upon every other youth alike in which books are no longer accessible beyond classroom boundaries.

  5. It’s demonstrably clear that T’s comments at the top of this blog show
    how vitally important books are to children, and especially to those in
    detention facilities. Books transport the reader to new places in their
    minds; those kids in these horrific facilities can find hopes, dreams, and potentially
    happier mental places by reading books. In addition, books open infinite possibilities
    to readers, especially children. They might show them communities or life
    paths that were completely unknown to these good kids. Yes, the
    children ARE good – regardless of what the prison system says – they’re good
    kids and books can help them see that and show them their potential.
    A library book can give joy, laughter, or even release emotional blocks.
    Books can be comforting friends and even advocates. Shame on Mississippi
    and all detention facilities that ban books. Using books just for
    classrooms takes away the broad impact books can have outside the classroom.

  6. It is so interesting to compare this to a classroom full of little kids. When you think of story time at an elementary school, you think of reading circles and a caring teacher making sure that the whole class is engaged and entertained. In some ways this is structured like a school library, yet the atmosphere is so much colder. They did put in the effort to hang posters and have a few chairs, but this is not a place that children love to go to. By restricting the books to a limited number of rooms, does not encourage reading and makes it harder for the children to access these resources. Bottom line is that while this detention center is attempting to give kids a nice place to get their mind off of everything else, it is still prison.

  7. I agree, but those kids are going to get out someday, and they need to be better for it. What a better and more safe way than books for education and inspiration?

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