Although jails must provide prisoners with access to legal resources, they will not have to supply a physical law library with law books.
"Under the new regulation, each jail must still provide access to legal materials to all inmates. Law libraries are not being closed ... the regulation gives those facilities flexibility in how they provide those services," explained Janine Kava, director of public information at the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services/Commission of Correction.
Rather than physical law libraries, jails can provide detainees with access to electronic legal services or a combination of electronic access and books.
Some New York jails use a nearby court library as an alternative to an in-house law library. Six jails currently have been granted variances by the Commission of Correction to use a law library located outside the facility; prisoners can request the books they want, which are then delivered.
However, Jack Beck, with the Correctional Association of New York, said that was an "unrealistic" alternative because pro se prisoners usually don't know what books they need to research their legal claims.
"These people are in jail ... they currently have pending cases and don't have time to do that kind of research," he stated.
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