Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Joe Halderman and the Rikers Island Library

So the guy who tried to extort two million from David Letterman works as an inmate librarian at the 'standing library' run by the New York Public Library on Rikers Island. Just about the only useful thing he's done recently, then, is to bring about an article on the standing library.

I like to hear about inmates reading. It keeps them out of trouble and I really do want to believe that prison programs can educate and rehabilitate people.

Inmates were brought down from one section of the jail at a time and browsed the books. One of them, John Ferris, a 41-year-old Brooklyn man sentenced for stealing a car, was looking at books about auto repair — not so he could steal another car when released in August, he said, but so he could get a job at a garage.

The inmates showed their jail identification to one of the librarians who logged their names and books. Then they sat in plastic chairs with rounded edges, reading their books, waiting to be taken back to their cells.

“Being able to read helps keep incidents down and keeps the inmates’ minds occupied because they’re doing something constructive,” said Juan Rosado, a corrections officer who helps inmates access the library. “It helps keep their minds at ease, and helps avoids fights.” The program has been credited by the city’s corrections commissioner, Dora Schriro, with keeping inmates focused on learning and enrichment, and with curtailing fights, misbehavior and other distractions.


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