City officials announced Thursday a pilot program that will allow prison inmates to read books to their children through live video at neighborhood libraries.
The program, called "Stories Alive," will be launched in February at three branch libraries, likely in Frankford, Nicetown, and Kensington, said Titus Moolathara, who manages prison library services for the Free Library of Philadelphia.
Inmates and family members approved by the Philadelphia Prison System will have access on Saturdays to hour-long reading sessions. Eligible inmates will be selected from Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, Riverside Correctional Facility, and Alternative and Special Detention.
"These will be private sessions between the inmate and the child," said Siobhan A. Reardon, the Free Library's president and director.
The collaboration between prisons and libraries "will support and encourage literacy for inmates, returning citizens and our youngest, most vulnerable citizens, their children," said Blanche Carney, deputy commissioner for the Prison System's restorative and transitional services.
The free service is made possible by a $25,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, a federal support agency.
Inmates who participate in the program and later leave prison will receive a temporary expedited library card and resource packet explaining available library resources and offering help with a job search.
After the one-year pilot concludes, the Free Library hopes to continue the program, Reardon said.
The program is an evolution of a program that records audio of inmates reading books for their children, Moolathara said.
The Free Library also oversees small libraries inside Curran-Fromhold and Riverside. A new library was started this week at Alternative and Special Detention. Trained inmates run those libraries.