INFORMATION NEEDS OF PRISONERS AND RESOURCES PROVISION THROUGH THE PRISON LIBRARY IN SOUTH EAST ZONE OF NIGERIA
The purpose of this work was to examine the information needs of prisoners and resources provision through the prison library in South-east Nigeria. Six research questions and three (3) null hypotheses were formulated to guide the study. The research design adopted for the study was a descriptive surveys. The population of the study comprised all the prisoners in South-East Nigeria. Purposive sampling was used to get the prisons that have libraries in the South-East zone and seven prisons were used for the study. Seven hundred and eight (708) prisoners and fourteen (14) welfare/library workers from the seven prisons that have libraries in South-east geopolitical zone were used as prisoners sample and staff sample for the study. While all the female prisoners were sampled due to their small number (141), simple random sampling was used to get the male prisoners (567). A structured questionnaire was used to get data from prison workers while Focus Group Discussion guide was used to elicit data from the prisoners. Observation guide was used to get data on the library and information resources and services available for the prisoners and documentary sources from the Nigerian prison service were also used to get data about the prisoners. The instruments were face-validated by three senior lecturers in the Department of Library and Information Science and Faculty of Education. Pilot study was carried out using five (5) prison workers in Aba prison and to test the reliability of the questionnaire, Internal Consistency reliability using the Cronbach’s Alpha method was used. Frequency and mean scores were used to analyze data from the questionnaire while recorded Focus Group Discussion data was analyzed qualitatively. Data from the observation schedule was analyzed quantitatively using a standard benchmark for prison libraries and the hypotheses were tested using Chi-Square (X²) test. Major findings showed that the prisoners are very highly in need of educational information; infrormation for spiritual growth and better life style; on health; on legal issues, vocational, recreational and financial information and for emotional growth. Findings from observation showed that the varieties of library and information materials that are provided are grossly inadequate considering the population of prisoners. Further findings showed that it is only legal and spiritual information needs that are being met to some extent; all the other information needs – educational, vocational, recreational, health and financial information needs are not being met adequately. Poor funding, uncomfortable nature of prisons, prison policies, censorship, staffing problems, inadequate reading accommodation, lack of standard library building are all found to cause setbacks in the provision of information resources and services to meet the prisoners’ information needs. A number of strategies could be used to enhance the provision of library and information resources and services to meet the prisoners’ information needs. These include liaising with public libraries, NGOS and others like religious bodies and legal practitioners, liaising with professional bodies like library associations and stakeholders, granting the prisoners more access to information (even use of the internet) and developing new and using existing guidelines to enhance prison library service. Based on the above findings some recommendations were made: that provision should be made for improved funding of the prisons and their libraries, improving general well being of the prisoners, reducing of censorship and other restrictions to give prisoners better access to information.