Most prison libraries boast an extensive collection of books

He does not hold a degree in law, but Theeveti Babu, an inmate of the Central Prison at Poojappura, had been a ‘petitioner in person’ at the court of law to fight his case. The jail authorities can point out more than one such case where the accused themselves have pleaded before the court of law, since they do not have the means to appoint a lawyer for them.

For such prisoners, the libraries in the jails across the State that stock not just novels but books on criminal law and Indian Penal Code have been a blessing. They and several other inmates of the jails are regular visitors to the libraries in prisons, and many of them participated in the oath taking ceremony held in connection with Reading Week at the Central Prison, Poojappura, on Thursday.

The State government in association with the P.N. Panicker Foundation is observing Reading Week in the State from June 19 to 25 to commemorate P.N Panicker, the pioneer of the library-and-literacy movements in the State.

Director General of Police (Prisons) Alexander Jacob said prisoners had been extensively using books from the libraries to understand the judicial system and the Indian Penal Code.

Prisons across the State boast extensive library facilities, including a dedicated reading room and e-learning facilities.

While the central jail here has a collection of more than 12,000 books, the Central Prison at Viyyoor in Thrissur bagged the best district library award (category-b), instituted by the Kerala State Library Council, in 2009-10.

The libraries also stock a good collection of academic books for those who pursue their studies through distant learning programmes. Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Prisons (South Zone) B. Pradeep said the department allocated a separate fund for purchasing academic books depending on the needs of each person.

“Many are pursing MA and BA programmes and they may not be able to afford academic books. Libraries also stock such books,” he said.

The officials have been careful in the selection of books. The authorities ended the sponsorship model two years ago and constituted an expert committee to select books. “Sex and violence is a part of many novels and may be necessary for the story. But those that glorify crime and other atrocities and books which speak against religious harmony are avoided. Religious texts such as Bible, Quran and Baghavat Gita are included but not those which tarnish the image of other religions,” said writer George Onakkoor, a member of the committee.