Helping those who are incarcerated

Reference to those who are incarcerated is a service that offers information and support to our community members who are currently in prison.

Our incarcerated citizens write to the library seeking information, entertainment, and community, just like any of our other patrons. PCPL’s Reference Department is poised to answer those needs through the letters program.

People in prison have severe limitations on access to information. They cannot access the internet without strict content controls, they cannot access books or other materials without stringent guidelines, and while some prisons have “Resource Centers,” these facilities are not libraries and their resources are limited. The Reference to Those Who Are Incarcerated service seeks to uphold the Library Bill of Rights and the American Library Association’s Code of Ethics by alleviating the information gaps that our prison populations experience.

Last year, the Library’s reference department answered 3,896 letters from people in prisons and jails across Arizona. We answered an average of 325 letters per month.

Here is a letter of gratitude we received from a person who is incarcerated and uses the service:

Dear Pima staff,

I require no return on this letter. I am only using it as a vehicle to express my appreciation for the positive way your information services branch has affected me.

I am 32, incarcerated for 7 years. My friends (few as they were) abandoned me first, followed by my partner, and last my parents. I have nobody to assist with outside business. I am autistic with a mood disorder and the kindness your service offers me by way of access to information empowers me to change my life for the better. More importantly, it serves as a seed of hope that future interactions might go as well.

I hope you know just how much you have helped me learn about myself as well as plot a trajectory for my future. I could not have come this far without your assistance, and I promise that it will be repaid in kind. Maybe not directly to you, but to someone.

May you be happy. May you be perfect.

Most sincerely.