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Prison and Libraries: Public Service Inside and Out

February 15th, 2013 | Our Library in the News

Excerpted from “Library Journal”
By Stephen M. Lilienthal

Hennepin County’s Freedom Ticket

Hennepin, like NYPL’s CSP and many prison libraries, has programs to instruct and help encourage inmates who are parents to read to their children. One goal here is to help prevent the children from following in the footsteps of their parents.

Likewise, Marcou believes it is important to address employment issues of returning inmates since being able to obtain and hold jobs is a crucial factor in achieving successful reentry, and helping former prisoners improve their literacy and job search skills is crucial to helping them get work.

A telling aspect of HCL’s program is Marcou’s branding of it as a “freedom ticket.” In part, he based the name on an anecdote in William Miller’s children’s book Richard Wright and the Library Card (1999). Wright, growing up in the segregated South, considered books to be “a ticket to freedom.” But there is more to the selection of the name, Marcou explains: “Freedom is probably the most valued word inside a corrections facility. I wanted to convey to the residents that reading and information can help to free us all from our past or places where we might not want to be in life. And the ticket, of course, is a library card so that you can use the library.”

This led to Marcou’s initiation of the Freedom Ticket blog, which showcases organizations and services offered by governmental agencies and nonprofits that can help returned inmates. Residents of Hennepin County’s correctional facilities receive a print version of The Freedom Ticket newsletter quarterly.

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