Updates from 2020-2022

Books Beyond Bars has been busy and we want to share with you what we’ve been up to, and what’s coming up for us!

Update on the status of our Library Program in the Women’s side of Burnside Correctional Facility

  • Since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our biweekly library program has been on hold. Prior to March 2020, two of our collective members would bring assorted books into the Women’s side of the Burnside jail for people inside to borrow. The program gave us a chance to chat with folks inside. People could make requests for specific books, and after each program, BBB would put out a call to the community to source the special requests.
  • With the pandemic lockdowns in 2020, our regular library program was indefinitely suspended. In 2021, an arrangement for temporary book exchange following strict health and safety guidelines was made. A BBB member could drop off a smaller selection of books to the front desk of the jail and collect books to take back. The jail would put the books in the dayrooms for people inside to access. Under this arrangement, BBB members do not interact directly with folks inside, requests are not taken, and BBB has often been turned away during long and short periods of lockdown.
  • During this time, we’ve continued to maintain our library in our rented storage locker and source books to fill gaps so that we can provide a variety of reading materials for our patrons. 
  • Currently, Books Beyond Bars is in negotiations with the administration at the Burnside jail to reinstate our regular library program. We’re hoping to start up again in 2023, and we’re looking forward to seeing people inside face to face again!

Update on community events

  • Thank you to everyone who contributed to our funding drive in th summer of 2021. Your donations help us pay for the rent on our small off-site library, and for the cost of supplies, public outreach events and administration. The “perks” related to the original campaign have all been claimed, but you can still donate here to help us with costs for our next year. We hope to offer more items as perks soon!
  • In August 2020, we held a Prisoners’ Justice Day event outside the old Halifax library building, with a panel featuring formerly incarcerated community members discussing their experiences and their dreams for prison abolition.
  • In 2021, for Prisoners’ Justice Day we partnered with Coverdale and North Pine Foundation to hold an event on the Halifax Common, with poetry, a panel and a memorial  to those lost over the years and those still feeling the effects of a traumatizing system. The focus of this event was on the connection between mental health and incarceration and the ways people choose to survive a system that is often anti-Black, anti-Indigenous and oppressive.
  • For 2022 we took a step back from event organizing, and appreciated the community organizations that held events on Prisoners’ Justice day for those who want to learn more about abolition movements in Canada and remember those who have been affected.
  • We released the audio of our 2018 Words Without Walls podcast episode created by Shaya Ishaq. Give it a listen!

Thank you to all our supporters who have helped make sure that we could offer support to our patrons on the inside from afar. It means that we’re able to start from a strong foundation as we rebuild our in-person program. We appreciate you!