Reaching out to policy-makers: The impact of prison libraries
Peter Biesenbach, Minister of Justice of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous federal state, was presented with the German edition of the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning’s recent publication on prison libraries, Books beyond bars, at a ceremony in August 2020.
The presentation took place during a visit to Münster Prison library, which is featured in the book as an example of good practice in the field of prison libraries. Representatives of the Ministry of Justice, staff of Münster Prison and members of a German Association for Prison Libraries (Förderverein Gefangenenbüchereien e.V.) attended the event. The Minister was also presented with a copy of a UIL Policy Brief on How prison libraries support rehabilitation efforts.
Minister Biesenbach said: ‘Books connect, they open up new worlds of ideas and clear a path to every place in the world. This is felt by prisoners, who rediscover or discover their joy of reading. Reading and critical literacy skills are an important precondition for media competence, particularly in the digital age, and even more so for people who lack basic education.’
The UIL publications on prison libraries stress the importance of lifelong learning and the right to education for inmates. Providing free access to books and other library services is crucial for inmates’ personal development, well-being and, ultimately, rehabilitation.