To provide services that expose the inmate population to reading, programming and legal information in an attempt to ease tension and promote literacy .
Access to a circulation collection including fiction and nonfiction is provided at Jail North, Jail North Annex and Jail Central. The libraries operate using a public library model including loan records, reserve lists and fine for lost or damaged books. Daily activities in the library resemble those of a small branch of the public library. Loans to readers at all three location now total an average of 30,000 per year.
The collections are built primarily through donations. Commissary funds, grants, and monetary donations provide some funding for special purchases such as learning materials, nonfiction, foreign language, and audio books.
Topics range from Young Adult book club to library assistant vocational training. Instructors and coordinators for these programs include MCSO staff, volunteers and professionals employed by community partners such as the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library (CML). Anyone interested in working as a library volunteer should contact library manager, Margo Fesperman at 704-336-3565.
- Book Clubs – Similar to community groups, members read the same book and then gather for discussions. These groups promote “literacy through the back door.” For each book read, vocabulary and comprehension skills improve. Thus, linking to essential life skills such as completing a job application. Currently, two populations participate in book clubs.
- Freedom Reads - Young adult males, 16-17, partner--community volunteers
- Ladies First - Adult females, partner --community volunteers
- Adult men – This is an often requested program but volunteers are needed.
- Vocational Training - Library Assistant - Adult males and females interview for positions as library assistants and must pass a 20-hour course and multipart test to qualify. These positions are not linked to inmate worker status and the primary reward for participation is self-improvement. The training is equal to an entry level position at a public library. This class is taught by library staff.
- Introductory Seminars 101 - Primarily focused on workforce development, these seminars replicate topics that participants can access once they return to the community. Instructors from Charlotte Mecklenburg Library teach resume writing, interview techniques and computer basics. Participants are encouraged to obtain their library card and utilize the resources at the library.
Access to a legal reference collection is provided at Jail North, Jail North Annex and Jail Central. Inmates may request an appointment using a law library request form. Appointments are prioritized based on legal representation, either private or public defenders; status in the judicial process – pre-trial, sentenced, or appeal; and previous appointments. Access to legal information is available to all inmates regardless of their classification and housing location – general, maximum or disciplinary. This collection is funded by proceeds from the inmate commissary fund.