Prison library with inmate waiting list scoops top award

Behind bars: The library offers education and employment support to ease prisoners transition to the outside world.
Behind bars: The library offers education and employment support to ease prisoners transition to the outside world.© STV

Scotland’s only library with a waiting list has been given a top award for the impact it has had on the lives of its readers – the inmates at Saughton Prison.

The prison came first in the Libraries Change Lives Awards on Tuesday, after judges heard the purpose-built facility had welcomed more than 12,500 inmates through its doors in its first year.

The extension, which opened in November 2008, has now become the only library in Scotland, public or private, to have attracted a waiting list. Since the new facility opened, staff say the number of books being damaged has also reduced from 80% to zero.

One prisoner commented: "When I first came into jail I found it really hard to read because I wasn’t good at concentrating and I would have to read the same paragraph over and over but after persisting with it and practising all the time, I find reading just as easy as breathing.  I have to admit that reading is now a hobby for me. I love it and I would be lost without it as it’s helped me through my sentence."

The library, run by experienced librarian Kate King, aims to address social inclusion issues amongst prisoners and provide education and employment opportunities to ease the transition back to life on the outside.

Linda Constable, chair of the Libraries Change Lives Award judging committee, said: "This project demonstrates and evidences ‘changing lives’, and has made a huge impact on all the prisoners and the staff working in the prison. In addition, Kate’s approach, empathy and passion has driven this life-changing work, not only in the prison, but on release by giving prisoners improved life-chances, which in turn have a wider impact on their families, communities and society in general.

"It is our hope that the partnership work that has taken place at Edinburgh HMP will be an inspiration for similar projects around the country.”

Councillor Deidre Brock, Convenor of Culture and Leisure for the City of Edinburgh Council, added: "Winning this award is a tremendous honour for our Libraries service. Through their dedication, vision and hard work, they have achieved something quite remarkable at HMP Edinburgh, and have unquestionably changed people's lives.

"It has been an enormous success in helping prisoners to improve their literacy and employability, reducing their risk of re-offending upon release. My heartfelt congratulations to all our superb staff."

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