The Big Read Comes to Maryland Prison Libraries


(HAGERSTOWN, 3/1/10)- Inmates at Maryland correctional facilities will be exposed to great American literature thanks to a grant awarded to the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation's Correctional Education libraries from The Big Read initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Correctional Ed libraries are believed to be the only prison libraries in the country to receive a Big Read grant.

"Education in correctional facilities is essential to improving occupational opportunities for ex-offenders and reducing recidivism. Reading and critically discussing great literature improves reading comprehension, reasoning, decision-making and understanding of the world," DLLR Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez said.

"We thank the NEA for this grant and look forward to making The Big Read part of the opportunities we offer to help inmates transition to productive lives in the workplace and community."

The library at the Maryland Correctional Institute in Hagerstown will host a kick-off to the Big Read program on Friday, March 5, with Alice Wirth, DLLR deputy assistant secretary for Adult Correctional Education; Paula Matthews, education liaison for the Division of Corrections; and other guests. The inmate group "Harmony" will perform and special educational displays and art work will be in the Library.

Throughout March, the Correctional Education libraries in Maryland will host a variety of special programs related to Ray Bradbury's classic futuristic novel "Fahrenheit 451." These programs will include book discussions, film presentations, essay contests and art contests. Each library has developed its own programming.

Correctional Education Libraries serve the information and reference needs of approximately 24,000 inmates in Maryland, helping to prepare them for their transition out of prison. Currently, approximately 60 percent of state prison inmates do not hold a high school diploma, according to government statistics, and within three years of their release 50 percent of ex-offenders will return to jail.

The Big Read initiative is designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest.

The CE Library Network is one of 268 communities nationwide participating in The Big Read from September 2009 to June 2010. NEA has funded more than 800 Big Read programs in the nation's towns and cities.

In July 2009, Adult Correctional Education programs moved to DLLR's Division of Workforce Development and Adult Learning from the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE). Find more information on the Maryland Correctional Education Library Network. You also can view a full calendar of events for The Big Read in Maryland.