New York Proposal to Eliminate Prison Libraries

Currently prisons are required by 9 NYCRR 7031.4 to provide libraries with specific legal materials for all prisoners. The Governor has recently proposed an amendment to this rule that would eliminate prison libraries, but still require that prisoners have access to legal materials. He characterized this as a cost-cutting measure that may save $5000 per prison annually. The WSJ blog (subscription required) recently covered this story, and it was covered here as well.

Under the new regulation, each jail must still provide access to legal materials to all inmates,” commission spokeswoman Janine Kava said. “The significant change is that they are not required to maintain the library inside the facility, and the new regulation specifically allows for electronic access.

Jack Beck, director of the prison visiting project at the Correctional Association of New York, says

It’s not comparable access to a law library in our opinion. These are not lawyers. It’s going to make it nearly impossible for individuals who are not very sophisticated to do their research.

A checklist of material that prisoners must currently have access to is available here. The text of the proposed rule begins on page 5 here. Comments on the proposed rule are due May 18.

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