(Photo by Flickr user Emily, used under a Creative Commons license)
There are costs to incarceration beyond dollar signs.
Aside from the adverse behavioral effects incarceration has on children and families of incarcerated individuals, studies have shown having a parent incarcerated can significantly impact a child’s education —specifically their engagement with education.
Thanks to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the Free Library of Philadelphia is doing something about it with a program called Stories Alive, which initiates an hour of reading and conversation between incarcerated individuals and their children and families via video conference.
Here’s how it works:
- Inmates make a request to participate in the program.
- Library staff contacts the inmate’s family and schedules a session.
- Families come to one of three neighborhood libraries and are given a private conference room.
- The families, united over video, are given an hour to read to one another and “talk about anything from school to friends, future plans, and what the children want to be when they grow up.”
Six months in, the program has touched nearly 40 families, and demand is increasing. According to the library, “100 percent of those who participate are eager to do it again.”
Stories Alive is not the only program offered by the Library’s Prison Services — it also has standing libraries at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF), Riverside Correctional Facility (RCF) and the Alternative and Special Detention Unit (ASDU) and is planning on publishing a new edition of its resource guide for returning citizens by the new year.