Who we are:
The Prison Libraries Committee (PLC) of the Manitoba Library Association (MLA) is a volunteer group that provides collections, programming and library awareness for incarcerated and reintegrating men and women in the justice system. Formed in 2012, the PLC’s volunteers provide service to:
- the Winnipeg Remand Centre (WRC) in Winnipeg,
- the Women’s Correctional Centre (WCC) in Headingley, Manitoba,
- the Headingley Correctional Centre (HCC) for Men,
- the Manitoba Youth Centre (MYC) in Winnipeg and Agassiz Youth Centre (AYC) in Portage la Prairie, and
- The Pas Correctional Centre in The Pas, Manitoba.
Programs have also been provided in other sites as part of reintegration and partnered initiatives. Activities of the PLC are continually evolving as we learn, grow and connect within justice and reintegration services in Manitoba.
What we believe:
We believe prison libraries and literacy play an important role in peoples’ reintegration into communities. Thoughtful programming and access to meaningful and relevant reading materials can help improve individuals’ quality of life both inside and outside of correctional institutions.
Please read our Prisoners Right to Read statement adopted by the Canadian Federation of Library Associations.
What we do:
- At the Winnipeg Remand Centre:
- we offer a weekly “Open Library” session for inmates at the WRC and
- a biweekly “Bin Refresh” of materials to units, using collections we develop and maintain.(Note: there is no designated library space at the WRC – the program is run out of the Sanctuary.)
- At the Women’s Correctional Centre:
- we offer biweekly “Book Exchange” services for women at the WCC (Note: while there is a designated library space at WCC, the Book Exchange is held down in the units.)
- You can read a copy of the Create Chapbook online created by the women inside WCC (link takes you to the U of M – Institute for the Humanities website)
- we run a monthly bookclub
- we help develop and organize the library at the WCC
- At the Headingley Men’s Prison:
- we gather collect donations, and help develop and organize the book room every few months.
- offer an email reference service
- At the Manitoba Youth Centre and Agassiz Youth Centre:
- we offer an email reference service
- At The Pas Correctional Centre:
- we offer a biweekly “Open Library” for inmates at The Pas Correctional Centre. (Note: there is no designated library space at The Pas – the program is run out of the gym.)
- At all of our partner correctional institutions:
- we arrange special guests such as author talks, writing workshops, and songwriter visits
- we create library awareness for inmates to inform on the resources and tools of the library for when they are released
- we commit to work together with partner sites and organizations towards the mutual goal of providing inmates and reintegrating men and women with relevant reading material and information
- we act with respect to both inmates and workers in the justice system
- we advocate for the greatest access to reading materials and information possible within the environments of individual correctional institutions
Interested in volunteering?
We welcome new volunteers and have several different opportunities both within and outside of correctional institutions. You can read about each opportunity in the Volunteer Descriptions at the bottom of this page. (Please note: some volunteer opportunities may be filled but several positions require multiple volunteers.)
- The PLC is a committee under the auspices of the Manitoba Library Association. As PLC volunteers we represent the Manitoba Library Association. Membership in the Association is required.
- Clearances and orientations are required for volunteering at the WRC, WCC, and HCC. (Note: clearances and training can take weeks (and sometimes months) to attain.) If you are choosing to volunteer outside a correctional facility, this is not needed.
- We ask that potential volunteers consider that consistency is an important part of building trust with our partner organizations and the individuals we serve. We encourage people to commit to only what they can deliver.
- To find out more about volunteering, see the descriptions at the bottom of this page and contact our Volunteer Coordinator at email@example.com
Interested in donating?
We are happy to receive monetary donations to be put towards new book purchases. Donations over $20.00 are eligible for a tax receipt. Cheques can be made out to the Manitoba Library Association and mailed to their office. Please specify “Prison Libraries Committee” in the memo. Or, use the “Donate” button to donate via PayPal. Please select “Prison Libraries Committee donation” from the drop-down menu.
Donating Used Books
We are happy to accept good quality used books that fulfill the needs of the people we serve. Please see our Wish List to get an idea of the types of materials we need. We are especially grateful for Indigenous materials (fiction and non-fiction), graphic novels, and memoirs. Note: while the Wish List is still current; not all needs may be reflected.
Please do not donate older, dusty, musty or torn books. We cannot make use of old textbooks or old children’s books. Please ensure the books you donate are properly boxed for our volunteers. Thank you so much.
As our storage space is very limited, if you are unsure if we can use what you have to give please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donating New Books
We love getting new donations and we’ve made it easy! Visit our wish list on Amazon.ca and have your purchase sent directly to us.
If you prefer to support local, McNally Robinson also sells the books we need. We are happy to provide you with a shipping address so that your purchase will be delivered directly to our Committee. Please email email@example.com.
Learn more about our committee
- Providing space to create featured in the Uniter (October 2019)
- Inmates tell their stories featured in the Headliner (September 2019)
- Publication aims to give prisoners a voice featured in the Winnipeg Free Press (September 2019)
- Feature: Prison Libraries Committee on Human Rights Hub Winnipeg (February 2018)
- The Right to Read – A Prison Story featured in the Freedom to Read Week Review (February 2018)
- ‘Bibliographic rehabilitation’: Fundraiser helps connect inmates with books in Manitoba from CBC Manitoba (May 2017)
- Listen to From classics to dictionaries, the books that prisoners want to read from CBC Radio’s Now or Never (February 2017)
- Short YouTube video featuring MLA-PLC volunteer Monique Woroniak describing our programs and services (May 2016)
- Building Bigger Libraries not Bigger Prisons, a TedX talk by volunteer Isaac Wurmann (May 2015)
- Books Behind Bars: a volunteer-run prison library service in Winnipeg, Manitoba – from In the Library with a Lead Pipe (March 26, 2014)
- Free to Read: Bringing Library Programming into the Winnipeg Remand Centre – from Wired West2014 Volume 17, Issue 2.
- Books Behind and Beyond Bars– an article written for Feliciter magazine (Vol. 59, No.2 April 2013)
General questions can be directed to Kirsten Wurmann, chair of the PLC: firstname.lastname@example.org
For questions about volunteering please contact: email@example.com
For questions about donating books please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
To join our Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/MLA.PLC
To our donors, those who have donated books and money.
To Highwater Press, Portage & Main Press, University of Manitoba Press, Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, and McNally Robinson for their book donations
To the staff at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, the Women’s Correctional Centre, Headingley Correctional Centre for Men, the Manitoba Youth Centre, and The Pas Correctional Centre for their support, advice and encouragement as we continue to develop and present library programming and services inside their respective correctional institutions.
To the Winnipeg Public Library for their continued support in the form of storage space for our collections, for donations of post-book sale books, and much more.
And a final heartfelt thank you to our prison library users, the men and women inside Manitoba prisons who inspire us to do this good, hard, and important work. Thank you.