Incarcerated & Returning Citizens: Sharing Stories and Building Supports

By Micaela G. RSS Thu, August 8, 2019

The Free Library is committed to connecting with all the residents of Philadelphia. With our Prison & Reentry Services program, we are reaching out to men and women experiencing incarceration and those returning to their communities after release. We believe the Free Library plays an important role in the lives of these citizens. From fostering and improving literacy, to finding a job and learning basic computer skills, to preparing to get a GED or pursuing higher education, the library can help. Furthermore, families who have been separated by incarceration are deeply affected by the experience, and our programs offer opportunities to strengthen the bonds among family members. To spread the word to the public about our resources, members of the Prison & Reentry Services staff will be present at a unique upcoming event at Eastern State Penitentiary.

Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) is committed to contributing to the public conversation about criminal justice. From August 15 through September 12, Hidden Lives Illuminated. will be an exhibition of 20 original animated short films, created by currently imprisoned artists, that tell the stories of people living behind bars. This project will bring the often invisible lives of incarcerated Americans into broad view. The nightly screenings are grouped into four themed weeks; each addresses topics such as "Community and Family Impact" and "Restorative Justice".

The films will be displayed nightly on ESP’s outer wall and are free and open to the public. Content is appropriate for all ages. Screenings last about 40 minutes, and are repeated at 7, 8 and 9 p.m. The Free Library will be onsite on August 26 to share information about the our program and to talk with members of the community about our work. We’re excited to partner with ESP for this exciting event! For more information, visit

The Free Library’s Prison and Reentry Services program, in partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Prisons, offers services for the currently incarcerated. We maintain lending libraries and offer financial literacy courses inside the prisons. Our Stories Alive sessions connect incarcerated parents and their children with an hour long video conference call between a neighborhood library and the prison facilities. Families use this time to read and talk together, and children receive books to take home and keep in their home libraries. Stories Alive harnesses the power of literacy to bring families together. 

For returning citizens, we offer library cards and information about library resources, including help with resumes and job searches, computer classes, and GED prep and practice. The Free Library publishes Bridges, a reentry guide that contains information about a broad range of Philadelphia City government and community resources.

Have a question for Free Library staff? Please submit it to our Ask a Librarian page and receive a response within two business days.

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Awesome work!
Rachel Hayes - Philadelphia
Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

I would love to help in any way possible!!
Nina Meirino - Philadelphia
Tuesday, April 21, 2020