Since 2018, SFPL's Jail and Reentry Services program has been providing dedicated library service to incarcerated adults. Through a partnership with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office, JARS offers in-jail library service. JARS librarians also provide reference by mail and reentry support, and have been serving youth at the Juvenile Justice Center for almost 20 years.
Jail Library Service
JARS conducts weekly library service inside San Francisco’s county jails. Librarians select and purchase new books for the jails, and provide personalized book recommendations to patrons during their visits. Librarians use a mobile book truck to facilitate access to the library for almost 1000 incarcerated people each month. Books include biographies, sci-fi/fantasy, comic books, young-adult novels, self-help, history, and job/education-related subjects. SFPL provides books in English, Spanish, and several other languages upon request. JARS partners with SFPL’s Talking Books and Braille Center to provide “talking books” for patrons who are unable to read a print book. In the Juvenile Justice Center, youth in custody visit the dynamic library every week as part of their SFUSD English class.
“The library presence in this jail is the best program. We look forward to getting good books to read and occupy our time. Reading is very therapeutic and eases the mind when stressing over being away from home. Inmates need the library service inside of the jail! The librarians are fantastic and try to help and accommodate the inmates as much as possible.”
--K.N., county jail patron
Reference by Mail
JARS librarians coordinate reference by mail for people who are incarcerated throughout the western United States. Through the efforts of SFPL librarians—and utilizing LIS student interns—the program responds to approximately 300 letters per month. Reference by Mail letters request information ranging from pop culture to housing to job readiness tools, and our mailed replies help to fill urgent information needs within the prisons.
Incarcerated people can request information by writing to:
Jail and Reentry Services
100 Larkin St
San Francisco CA 94102
JARS librarians conduct outreach at reentry-related events for recently incarcerated people, helping to connect people in reentry with the public library as well as other local community resources. Partnering with reentry organizations in San Francisco such as the Reentry Council, the Prisoner Reentry Network, the CASC (Community Assessment Service Center), and Women’s Resource Center, librarians work to increase awareness of and access to SFPL for people reentering the community after a period of incarceration.
JARS is not accepting book donations at this time.
Rachel Kinnon, JARS manager, can be reached by cell phone at 415-471-5340 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.