Skip to main content

Westlaw trumps law books in US prisons

If you're an American prisoner unhappy with your sentence, you might want to start brushing up on your IT skills. This story of an inmate who objected that giving limited Westlaw access wasn't the same as providing a legal library turned up in my RSS feeds via Library Stuff.

I can understand his problems with Westlaw, although it's actually one of the less painful legal databases to use (Lexis - why? WHY?!?!). As the story says though, he's not likely to win his case, so the books will be going, and occasional Westlaw access will be staying. Which ain't fun if you're not confident on a computer, and have restricted access.

Do we have a similar sort of requirement for prisoners to have access to law libraries and legal materials? Do UK prisoners have any sort of ability to do legal research on their own behalf?

Comments

Michael said…
Nah.. they're probably too busy researching the best way of securing a new source of drugs to keep them going 'inside'!

;-)
Anonymous said…
That's fascinating - I had no idea that any prisons, UK or US, provided access to legal research materials! This generally strikes me as a Good Thing, regardless of whether print or electronic resources are used.

I have no idea if the same happens in the UK - my initial reaction would be to assume that our prison libraries are probably too cash-strapped to afford a Westlaw subscription, but having never worked in or even visited a prison library that's based on nothing at all really! I wonder if any prison librarians out there could shed some light on this?
Dumpling said…
@Michael - you're a very naughty boy! Go to your room and think about what you've done! ;)

@Woodsiegirl - Yeah -I've never beein in/near a prison library, or know much about them, but I'd imagine their budgets are as pushed as any other public library service (as prisoners are really just the public, in a public building they can't leave). And if it's just criminal law resources they need (an area I also know nothing about), Westlaw is perhaps too wide-ranging to justify the insane cost of.

Would definitely like to know more about this from a UK prison librarian though - is interesting question, especially since the prisoners would seem to have as much right to a library service as any other member of the public.
Leeb said…
From a previous librarian life I remember that HMP Edinburgh kept a set of Renton & Brown updated. The HMIP Standards for Inspections includes the indicator "The library has a good collection of legal texts"
Dumpling said…
Thanks Leeb, that's interesting - so there is some provision, but with a wonderfully woolly wording! The definition of "good collection" might well vary widely, depending on who's in charge of the purse strings then? And electronic databases would probably be way out of the reach of most.

Popular posts from this blog

What's in a name?

In the case of this blog, it's a name that had no particular thought or planning behind it - I had no idea whether I would actually want to keep it going, what I would blog about, or that anyone would ever read it. Well, it's almost 4 years later (17th June 2007 is blog birthday, if we're counting), and the blog's still here, so I think we can now safely assume that it's probably going to be sticking around. And the name's been getting on my nerves a bit...you have no idea the amount of people who have found this blog looking for ladies called Jennie Law or Jenny Law. Personally, I'm not actually called Jennie Law, so I'm no help to these poor searchers, although for the right fee I could maybe consider pretending to be... I also don't blog a huge amount about law: I'm not a lawyer, I just have the job of finding stuff for lawyers. Sometimes that process amuses me, sometimes it annoys me, and I blog about it. Sometimes I write about library is

Losing the professionalism

So, recently, CILIP apparently sent out an email regarding a consultation on a change of brand image, and name. I say apparently, as despite being a member, I never got this email. When I went to the website to log in and check why it wasn't sent to me, it didn't let me log in. I tried a password reset, and that email came through, so it *can* send emails to me...but the password it sent won't let me log in. I’m losing the will to keep trying. Overall, this is kind of symptomatic of how I feel about CILIP, and how useless its IT systems are.... Anyway, the consultation is on changing CILIP’s currently, clunky and meaningless name (picked as the best of a previous bad lot, as David McMenemy showed with this link to the 2000 consultation results ) to something more meaningful and relevant is open. If you want to take part, it’s here . I was a good girl, and pootled over yesterday to take part, and after filling in all the bumph, I got to view the glorious options. Oh. My.

cpd23 Week One - Blogging

So, week one of cpd23 begins, and participants are asked to set up a blog, if they don't already have one. Well, I've had this blog (in it's previous incarnation as "Jennie Law" for four years, so I think I'm good for the "setting up and getting used to blogging" part of Thing One :) I set this blog up originally as just somewhere to share the interesting things I found around the internet, with no real expectation of many others finding or reading it (and hence very little thought about a good name). At the time, there were only one or two other law librarians that I knew of blogging, so it didn't seem like it would be something long term, but for that moment, it felt good to be able to share some random thoughts with other law librarians, and to be able to learn from their blogs. I've stuck with it, despite a few periods of thinking "I've got nothing to say!" (and then finding a month or so later that I suddenly had a flood