Department of Corrections Director Blames Illinois Lawmakers For Lack Of Spending On Prison Books

By Lee V. Gaines

Last spring, Illinois Newsroom reported that the Illinois Department of Corrections spent less than $300 on books for all of its prisons the prior year. In a recent interview, IDOC Director John Baldwin said state lawmakers dictate how the agency spends its money.

Data obtained via an open records request shows the department used to spend roughly three quarters of a million dollars per year on books in the early 2000s.

Research also shows that more education in prisons can reduce recidivism rates, and potentially save taxpayer money on re-incarceration costs.

When asked why the department cut spending on reading material, Baldwin placed the blame squarely at the feet of state lawmakers.

“The legislature makes choices in where the money goes,” he said.

Baldwin added, however, that the department has been “really good at increasing the number of actual books in our libraries because a variety of volunteer groups contribute hundreds and hundreds of books to institutions every single year.”

He described the prisons system’s library collections as “pretty robust.”

Illinois Newsroom spoke with a former prison librarian for the story published last year who confirmed she had no budget to buy books for the prison’s general library while she worked at Robinson Correctional Center in southeastern Illinois. She said she relied on volunteer groups to stock the library’s shelves.

Several volunteer groups in Illinois that donate books both to inmates and to prison library collections said they do this work because, if they didn’t, there may be no books for incarcerated people to read.

Read Illinois Newsroom’s original report here.

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