Prison book scheme helps inmates bond with children
01/06/2004 - 16:58:06

‘Spot Goes to School’ and ‘Mr & Mrs Pig’s Evening Out’ were today placed on the bookshelves of the library in Northern Ireland’s top security Maghaberry Prison.

It had nothing to do with back-to-basics reading for inmates, but was all about building relationships between children and their fathers while they are behind bars.

The children’s titles are among a series added to the Antrim prison library stock with the launch of the jail’s Book and Tape Club.

Members of the club, initially long-sentence prisoners, will be able to select a book and make a recording in the prison library for their child.

A copy of both the book and the tape will be given to the child when they visit and they can then take it home to read and listen to.

As with any lending library both book and tape must be returned and another book selected.

The Prison Service said initially eight fathers and 16 children will be involved in the pilot project which they hope will enable parents in prison to contribute to their child’s reading development thus helping the prisoner play an important part in the life of their family.

Governor Austin Treacy, who heads the Maghaberry Resettlement Unit, said: “The experience of prison affects the whole family, not just the prisoner. This scheme and developments in family visits at Maghaberry do help to develop a bond between fathers and their children.”

He said the service knew the successful resettlement of prisoners back into society was best achieved when family relationships, including those with children, were maintained during a period of custody.

An added bonus, he said, was that fathers were able to develop their own learning through reading.

The scheme is supported by the South Eastern Education and Library Board and Bright Books, and Mr Treacy said the prison was grateful for their help and support.

“This project is another example of partnership working where the prison is actively engaged with the public and private sector to extend the services available to prisoners in our care,” he added.

Beth Porter, chief librarian at the SEELB, added: “Reading and books play an important part in children’s development and the involvement of both parents is a great encouragement to a child who is just starting to discover the joy of reading.

“The scheme allows fathers to read to their children at a difficult period in both their lives.”

Bright Books, a private sales and distribution company, has provided £500 (€751.70) for the purchase of book tokens and £500 (€751.70) worth of books for immigration detainees which include popular titles which have been translated into several languages, as well as books written by foreign authors.

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