HMP Thameside is a local category B men's resettlement prison in South East London. It has over 1,000 residents. Since February 2020, the library have supported 60 Reading Ahead participants to complete the programme with others still in the middle of the programme. We spoke to Neil Barclay, Library Manager, to find out how the library provision has been impacted over the past year.
Pre-lockdown, how did the prison library deliver Reading Ahead at HMP Thameside?
Prisoners were able to book library sessions via our in-cell system available at HMP Thameside (Custodial Management System - CMS) and attend sessions or events. Reading Ahead diaries were provided to the prisoners who attended library sessions and were interested in participating in the incentive.
How did Covid-19 impact your library provision?
Our prison has been on a lockdown since March and no library visits are currently permitted. This means that books have had to be provided to prisoners in their wings by library staff.
How did running Reading Ahead change due to lockdown and how do you get participants to sign up?
Reading Ahead became a wing-based incentive. We submit adverts via our in-cell 'Noticeboard' facility on CMS. Prisoners can contact Library staff directly via an application service to apply and we collect entries from them on the wings when we deliver books rather than prisoners handing them to library staff during library visits.
Can you explain how participants benefit from the programme and why they take part?
Reading Ahead encourages prisoners to keep reading to occupy their minds and improve their wellbeing, this is especially important during long lockdown periods. We find the dictionaries we use as an incentive prize for completers are a huge encouragement for participants to complete and return their Reading Ahead diaries.
Which books do you find are most popular with visitors to the library and in particular, those who complete Reading Ahead?
Our most popular titles are:
Robert T. Kiyosaki - Rich Dad Poor Dad
Rhonda Byrne - The Secret
Martina Cole - Envy
L.J Flanders - Cell Workout