New York corrections officials have proposed letting jails close their law libraries used by inmates to save money, though the 63 jails would still have to preserve prisoner access rights to legal materials, which could be done online
Another alternative is submitting written inmate requests to nearby court libraries, the current practice of six small jails with waivers from the requirement.
According to inmate advocates, the change will make it harder for inexperienced individuals to do research, especially where they have to wait three days to see if specific requests to court libraries produce the documents they need.
“It’s not comparable access to a law library in our opinion,” said Jack Beck, director of the prison visiting project at the Correctional Association of New York. “These are not lawyers. It’s going to make it nearly impossible for individuals who are not very sophisticated to do their research.”
The commission proposal would let jails that choose to maintain a law library pay the costs with profits from the commissary where inmates buy goods.
The rule, if adopted, would take effect May 18.