Librarian and Newsday columnist Debbie Jacob has confirmed that she will be involved in a plan for prisons to include libraries as part of rehabilitation for prisoners.
Minister of National Security and former communication minister Stuart Young announced the project at the launch of the Barataria Community Library on July 16,
Jacob, who started a library in the Port of Spain prison, has been asked to lead the initiative.
Asked about the plan, she said she was unsure when it would begin. She admitted the task would be challenging.
She elaborated part of the challenge would be understanding the differences of culture in each prison to know what types of literature would be needed for each.
Part of her goal for the initiative is for both inmates and prison officers to be able to get library science degrees so they can manage the libraries in their respective prisons.
“We have to look at what each prison needs in terms of reading material. My hope, my dream is that we start to train prison officers and inmates and get library degrees for them so they can run the different libraries. I’m hoping that this really does come through, because I’ve seen how much a library can help. It is a vital form of restorative justice.
Of the library at the Port of Spain prison, she said, "We did a lot of research into that library...the reading choice is about 90 per cent nonfiction literature: history, biography, self-help kind of books. I don’t know if that’s going to be true in the other prisons."
In Port of Spain, she said, the prisoners were looking for “books that help them to envision a path that they never had. They want books that help them deal.”
She said someone would have to vet the books for the other prisons to ensure they were appropriate. "Right now I do that.”
Jacob said she could not yet estimate exactly how the Port of Spain prison library would help in rehabilitation.
“It's kind of really difficult to measure right now. They are trying. There is no mandate that prisons have to do anything with remanded inmates but lock them up."
She said at present there was a lot of focus on the remand inmates as opposed to convicts.
Overall Jacob is happy at the realisation of the need and the move toward addressing restorative justice programmes in prisons, thought it highly commendable, and is excited to begin work on the library project.