Salt Lake County Jail inmates need library service to help make better use of their time behind bars, a county commissioner told members of the county library board Wednesday.
"There are a lot of good people in there who have bright minds, and yet all they have is television," said County Commissioner Mike Stewart, who oversees the library system.He said the only reading material currently available in the jail are law books, which the county must supply so inmates who choose to do so can participate in their defense.
Salt Lake County Library Director Eileen Longsworth suggested that providing service to the hundreds of inmates in the jail, which the county is hoping to expand soon, be considered as part of a reorganization plan being drafted this summer.
Stewart agreed, but said he has been concerned for years about the lack of library service in the jail. He said offering books and other reading materials would be "humane and productive."
Longsworth cited problems other jail libraries have had nationwide with contraband being smuggled to inmates in library materials. Stewart said that might be solved by hiring a former law enforcement official to monitor the library.
The library system's reorganization effort will begin on May 5 with a daylong meeting of 35 employees to determine what services should be emphasized, Longsworth told the board.
Once those decisions are made, the library staff will determine the best way to provide services. Longsworth, who was hired to head the library system about six months ago, said making such decisions will be the first steps toward developing a long-range plan.