I wanted to follow up JT’s powerful post with something concrete to do.
A lot of you know that I taught for a time in the Los Angeles juvenile court system. But here’s something you probably don’t know.
In all the juvenile detention centers across the United States – the prisons for people under the age of 18 – there are only six staffed libraries. Six in the entire US. (And I can tell you – the books on those shelves are rarely what contemporary teenagers would choose to read).
Here are some statistics from a panel of five librarians who have worked in three of California’s juvenile detention centers, speaking at the annual California Library Association Conference in Long Beach, CA:
The State of California has more prisons than universities:
17 youth authority sites
33 adult prisons
29 state universities
At any time, in Los Angeles County alone, between 1,650 and 2,000 youth are serving time in the county’s three juvenile detention centers. Another 15,000 young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 are serving time in L.A. County jails.
Now project that across the country and you begin to get an inkling of the problem.
I know I don’t have to tell anyone here about the power of reading and books. Books aren’t just an escape – they can be a WAY OUT. Statistics have shown time and time again that literacy reduces recidivism.
So this holiday season please join me in supporting one of my favorite efforts:
The Beyond 4 Walls Book Drive for Incarcerated Youth
Buy books from the AMAZON.COM WISH LIST for kids at Barry J. Nidorf Juvenile Detention Facility in Sylmar, California
Nidorf houses 600+ children and teens ages 10-17 who are awaiting adjudication. Some cycle in and out in a matter of weeks, while others are detained for years. There is no access to a library. The Nidorf Collective, a group of librarians and masters students at UCLA’s Library Information Studies school, initiated a program of book giveaways and book-talking groups at the facility; this book drive is to supply the books the kids have requested and would like to read. Free voluntary reading has proven to have a salutary effect on school performance, personal attitudes and behavior; we hope you will support this important outreach program by donating books.
or just search “Nidorf” on Amazon (Click “Gift and Wish Lists,” then “find someone’s wish list”, then search “Nidorf” or “Beyond 4 Walls”)
To donate new or gently used paperback books directly, please send to:
Beyond 4 Walls
c/o Lisa Lepore
3254 Kelton Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Sponsored by THE NIDORF COLLECTIVE – founded by students in the UCLA Masters, Library Information Studies Program, and including students, librarians, and interested others.
For more information, email Melissa Elliott, email@example.com, or Monti Lawrence, firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also donate books to a detention center near you. Call the front desk and tell them you have books to donate and ask where to bring or send them. You can use the wish list above to get an idea of the most coveted books. Also please note that it’s best to send paperback books. Some facilities do not allow hardcovers, which, yes, can be used as weapons.
Thanks for helping.