The mission of The Book Banks Prison Teaching Initiative is to reduce incarceration rates, especially among poor and minority communities by increasing access to outstanding post-secondary education. Courses and workshops in several disciplines are taught by volunteer instructors including the Book Bank faculty, staff, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, alumni, and motivational speakers.
With a current prison population of 2.29 million people, the United States maintains the highest per capita and percentage incarceration rates in the world. Poor and minority communities are particularly affected by mass incarceration, with one in nine college-age African American men currently behind bars. The causes of this reality are complex, but a lack of access to high-quality education before, during, and after incarceration is a major contributing factor. The Book Bank works to address this challenge by providing both inmates and effected families with the education and skills necessary to lead productive, intellectually engaged lives while in prison and when they return to their home communities.
The transition process – which includes how convicted offenders spend their time during confinement, how they are released from prison, and how they are supervised during their adjustment to life in free communities is deeply flawed in most states, and must be strengthened in order to protect the public more effectively. Ninety-seven percent of the 1.3 million inmates now in prison eventually will be released and will return to communities. Unconditional releases – inmates who are released with no community supervision after serving their full sentence are growing both in absolute numbers and as a percent of total released offenders. The number of offenders released from prisons will continue to increase in the future, as more inmates complete long prison terms
The Book Bank Foundation’s Transition from Prison to Community Initiative will help states improve offenders’ transition from prison to communities, thereby increasing public safety, reducing recidivism and new victimization, and making better use of scarce resources in correctional facilities and communities. The Book Bank has been a sea-change for participating jurisdictions. Which has included a fundamental shift in the mission of correctional agencies, and, consequently, equally fundamental changes in agencies’ priorities, operating procedures, staffing and management practices. Which also requires corrections, releasing, supervision, and human service agencies to form strategic and tactical partnerships to integrate and coordinate basic policies, and to sustain and nurture those partnerships and policies over time. It will require many agencies to reallocate resources and to seek more effective and targeted ways to use them.