What is the Role of the Prison Library? The Development of a Theoretical Foundation

Jayne Finlay, Jessica Bates

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There has been little examination of how criminological theory may help to inform library practice in correctional settings. This article takes steps to address this deficit by presenting a new and timely approach to prison library research. It suggests that situating prison library research within the disciplines of librarianship, education and criminology can lead to a deeper understanding of the contribution made by libraries to the lives of those in prison. The authors propose a theoretical model which draws on theories of desistance, informal learning theories and critical librarianship. This model can be used by both library and education researchers and practitioners to build a body of evidence on the value of the prison library, and may act as a roadmap to good practice. It is an initial framework, intended to be adapted and refined as more empirical evidence is collected in this area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-139
JournalJournal of Prison Education and Reentry
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Dec 2018


  • Prison libraries
  • desistance
  • informal learning
  • critical librarianship
  • prison education


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