The Brooklyn Public Library (BPL)’s Telestory program lets incarcerated parents read to their children via videoconferencing.
The program, recently profiled in NextCity, received $400,000 in funding earlier this summer from the Knight Foundation to expand from its current four branches to 12 in total, including Brownsville and East New York.
Through the program, four to five families gather each week to conference with incarcerated parents in Rikers Island for an hour at a time. The children and parents have access to identical libraries, so that they can read books together.
Unlike other prison videoconferencing services, which have recently gained notoriety for expensive fees and contracts that obligate jails and prisons to curtail in-person visits, the Telestory program is free and families are still encouraged to visit incarcerated loved ones in person.
“If we can do something to help bridge them back into the community in a very public, very welcoming way, I think that we’re doing what we should be doing,” Nick Higgins, director of BPL’s outreach services, told Next City.
Story Bellows, who used to run former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s civic innovation team and now focuses on innovation for BPL, is also part of the project.
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