Prison and Re-entry Services

The Free Library is committed to offering high-quality programs and services to the incarcerated, their children, and their families. These include literacy support, family programs, cultural and literary offerings, and re-entry resources and information.

Below is an overview of current initiatives. We are grateful for a robust and growing partnership with the Philadelphia Department of Prisons (PDP) who supports this work.

Prison Libraries

We maintain lending libraries in several facilities within the Philadelphia Department of Prisons. Each month, more than 200 inmates at the Curran-Fromhold, Riverside, and Alternative and Special Detention correctional facilities take advantage of the book-lending program. Inmates who are regular users of the libraries volunteer and are trained to track checked-out materials. This alliance allows library services to operate continuously and provides interested users with valuable skills.

Stories Alive

Read a book to your child through live video conferencing stations set up both in the prison and in neighborhood libraries.

Sign Up

This flagship program offers incarcerated parents the opportunity to read books with their children beyond a traditional visiting room. Using live video conferencing set up in the prison and in neighborhood libraries, families gather to read, talk, sing, and spend time together. The video visit takes place via computer screens, similar to Skype or FaceTime, and free books and library cards are given to families who participate. Children with family members incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold or Riverside prison facilities are eligible to participate. Find out more or sign up for a visit.

Re-entry Library Cards

Often, returning citizens are met with barriers to services if they do not have state-issued identification. In an attempt to eliminate this barrier, the Free Library has launched a pilot program to provide cards and informational packets to those exiting PDP. The cards and informational packets are issued through and in partnership with the Mayor's Office of Reintegration Services (RISE).

Bridges: A Guide to Your Community | Annual Re-entry Resource Guide

Bridges offers returning citizens information on resources to assist their re-entry process. The guide lists background and contact information about organizations that provide GED support, healthcare, employment, legal services, housing, and library services, among others. Download the guide, or for printed copies, contact


For more information, please contact:

Prison Services
Widener Neighborhood Library
2808 W. Lehigh Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19132

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How the Free Library is helping incarcerated parents spend quality time with their kids
For the past six months, the library's "Stories Alive" program has helped nearly 40 incarcerated parents spend an hour reading with their kids via video conference.
New Program Aims to Bring Together Families Separated by Incarceration
Can reading help mend families separated by incarceration? That's the idea behind a new Free Library of Philadelphia program at the city's largest prison.

Blog Posts

Join Us for the Premiere Screening of “The Command Center to Bring Women Home”

Join your neighbors at the Parkway Central Library on Wednesday, November 30 at 6 p.m.  for the FREE Philadelphia premiere screening of the new short hybrid documentary film, “ The Command Center to Bring Women Home ”, with… continue reading

By Juanita V.    November 23, 2022   

Incarcerated & Returning Citizens: Sharing Stories and Building Supports

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… continue reading

By Micaela G.    August 8, 2019    3   


The Free Library of Philadelphia Foundation is pleased to recognize, with grateful appreciation, the following individuals and organizations whose generosity provided for the expansion of the Prison Services Program.

  • Rebecca Elias Abboud
  • Michael P. Buckley
  • Martha Cornog
  • Evan Croen
  • Fierce Advocacy Fund
  • Mary P. Hugues
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services
  • Macquarie Group Foundation
  • Gillian M. Norris-Szanto
  • Mark Steinberger
  • Virginia Trovato