Bringing dignity and hope through prison libraries

Libraries are a unique and valuable resource which open a number of doors towards contributing to positive transformation within the prison environment. We thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on the impact that our libraries have within the prison communities we work with

Read our interview below with APP's Life Skills Manager, Ritah Nanyonga.

What challenges/issues do you hope to overcome by offering library facilities to prisons?

Prisons in Africa often lack adequate reading material – furthermore, it’s difficult to find a conducive environment for reading and studying within the prison walls, especially for prisoners who are taking part in our formal education programmes. By providing high-quality and well stocked libraries, the prison community as a whole can benefit, including prison staff and their families. Organised library activities, such as book clubs, debates and creative writing help to improve reading culture and tackle issues of idleness – helping inmates grow in confidence, develop public speaking skills and can help to relieve stress.

Who does the library benefit? How often does the library get used? Do members of the public get to use the facilities?

The libraries are available to prisoners, prison staff and their families. In most cases the libraries will operate from 9am to 3:30pm.

Who runs the prisons libraries on a daily basis?

Inmates and prison staff are trained as library assistants so that they can run in a self-sustainable way. APP’s librarian and Life Skills manager offer continuous supervision and help build capacity of the libraries.

How do you go about stocking the libraries with books and resources?

We receive books through donations from organisations such as Book Aid International and International Law Book Facility. Books are received covering a range of subjects from fiction and children’s to law,  English language skills, business and finance.

Are there any interesting facts/figures? 

Through our FAL (Functional Adult Literacy)  programme, we’ve seen significant improvements in literacy within the prison community. Out of 142 inmates that were enrolled on the FAL programme in Nakasongola, 124 sat end of year exams with an 88.8% pass rate in literacy and a 95% pass rate in numeracy.

I had never attended school at all but would like to extend my gratitude to APP for funding the FAL programme in Nakasongola Prison, because this was a golden opportunity for me, a second chance to education is the best gift you can give someone despite the situation or environment they are in
— Ssebyala John, FAL 2 Nakasongola Prison

What other facilities do libraries offer?

Our libraries help to support formal adult education where teachers are able to develop the a curriculum with the books available to them. The libraries play a key role as leisure and recreation centres for the prison community, whereby people can spend their time reading, taking part in the organised activities, or simply engage in a game of chess. They also help to educate prisoners in the regards to how the justice system operate – for example, they can access Uganda’s Penal Code Act which informs prisoners of the nature of their crimes.