Malcolm X was one of countless citizens who developed a passion for reading and self-improvement while behind bars. Thanks to a new partnership between St. Louis County Library and St. Louis County Justice Services, reading and learning are getting easier for those locked up at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton.

The library now will provide a wide array of books to those in custody at the County Justice Center – a larger and more varied supply of library materials, available at different reading levels, that will be refreshed monthly.

The library also will supply library cards upon release for those who want them. This includes ready access to other helpful library resources such as computer classes, the Career Online High School program and job search assistance, not to mention telescopes, musical instruments and Wi-Fi hot spots.

“This will be really beneficial for guys unfortunate as I am, as some people are,” Reuben Parker, an inmate at the County Justice Center, told The American in a phone interview. “The library card will be a good resource when guys get out, and more books will be great for guys in here as well. There are hardly any books in here. I love to read.”

Parker is serving 60 days for a DWI before he gets probation, according to his public defender, Megan Beesley.

With the most recent recidivism rate in Missouri at 43.9 percent, constructive resources are badly needed for people getting out of jail. 

“We look forward to working with the Justice Center on efforts to reduce recidivism in St. Louis County,” County Library Director Kristen Sorth stated in a release. “Libraries offer important resources for all members of the community and can be of particular help to those who are struggling.”

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, whose office administers County Justice Services, developed the partnership along with Lt. Col. Troy Doyle, acting director of Justice Services., and newly announced director of Justice Services Raul Banasco will help to develop it.

“Making library assets more readily available will help ease some obstacles individuals face after being released from incarceration,” Page said in a statement. “It’s another way to treat those in our custody with dignity and respect and prepare them for a brighter future.”

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