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Books Through Bars--NYC is an all-volunteer collective that sends free reading material to people incarcerated all over the United States. We are affiliated with Bluestockings Bookstore, and our fiscal sponsor is ABC No Rio. All contact information is on our website.
WHY BOOKS THROUGH BARS?
(Sources for these statistics available on our website.)
By the end of 2006, 2.26 million people were in custody in state and federal prisons and in local jails. The vast majority are incarcerated in jails and state prisons. The United States imprisons 737 people per 100,000 in the national population -- a higher rate of imprisonment than in any other country in the world.
Access to books in prison varies from state to state, partly because nowhere is it legally mandated that prisoners have a right to educational or recreational reading material, including through general library services.
At least 95% of all State prisoners will be released from prison at some point. In 2001, about 592,000 State prisoners were released.
From 1982 to 2001, overall state spending on corrections, which includes prisons, jails, probation, and parole, increased 529%.
Pell Grants were eliminated for prisoners in 1994, ending college programs in prison.
New York State contributions to the corrections operating budget surpassed state contributions to SUNY and CUNY systems for the first time in 1994-5. At the time, New York ranked 45th out of 50 states in per capita state appropriations for higher education, even though the state had the fourth highest per capita income in the nation.5
A study of released inmates in Maryland, Minnesota, and Ohio showed that participants in education programs were significantly less likely to be re-arrested (57% of non-participants versus 48% for participants), re-convicted (35% versus 27%), and re-incarcerated (31% versus 21%).
In 2000, over 20,000 prisoners were confined in special super-maximum security facilities, leaving them with little or no access to educational and recreational materials. Isolation and sensory deprivation of this nature have been shown to lead to psychosis.
68% of State prison inmates did not receive a high school diploma. 75% of New York State prisoners did not complete high school.
According to one study, about 3 out of 4 inmates leaving State prisons had been convicted of a nonviolent crime. About two-thirds of nonviolent releasees were racial or ethnic minorities. Just over 4 in 10 had less than a high school education.
New York State's prison system has the greatest percentage of inmates in disciplinary segregation, and we have the third largest number of inmates in all forms of segregated housing (administrative, disciplinary and protective custody) nationwide. The national average of the percentage of state prisoners in disciplinary segregation is 2.6%, while in NY it is 6.7%.
"Any discussion about reentry into society from prison begins with education."
-- Robert Sanchez, former inmate and current program manager at STRIVE: East Harlem Employment Services
More and more prisoners writing to Books Through Bars tell us that we are their only source of reading material.