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Reductions Proposed in Law Libraries

The following information is taken from a memorandum by David Tristan, deputy director of the Institutions Division of the California Department of Correction. It is dated July 15, 1997, and was issued to wardens throughout the California Department of Corrections. It was distributed with this warning:


The Department is currently developing proposals to change existing regulations and Department Operations Manual (COM) sections regarding law libraries. The impetus for these changes is the United States Supreme Court's decision of Lewis v. Casey, 216 S.Ct. 2174 (1976). We anticipate that the changes will be approved and ready for implementation by early 1998. One of the changes will be a new law library collection which will be different and smaller than the current collection.

I understand that institutions are currently preparing orders for lawbooks. Because we anticipate implementation of the changes by early 1998, it would be an unnecessary expenditure of public funds to update the current collection at this time. Please d elay the processing of orders for updating the current collection, and process only those orders for lawbooks on the attached list. Some of the titles on the attached list should be purchased in quantity (i.e., more than one copy per law library.) The n umber of copies should be determined by your Lead, Senior, or Supervising Librarian.

Furthermore, each prison must determine whether or not to purchase materials on the attached list for Administrative Segregation Units, minimum support facilities, and other restricted housing areas. Library staff should have input into this decision-maki ng process, since they will be the immediate providers of law library services. In making this decisions the following items should be considered:

  • Under the Lewis v. Casey decision, a "paging" system is acceptable. Paging is the delivery of requested and available law library materials to either an inmate who does not have physical access to the law library, or to any other inmate for whom the institution, for its own convenience, chooses to provide the service.

  • If copies on the attached list are not purchased in order to maintain a collected in restricted housing areas, additional staff time (correctional officers and library staff) will be required to either escort inmates to law libraries or provide paging services.

  • If a paging system will be used, a list of available lawbook titles, including content descriptions must be made available to inmates in units where paging is the only form of access for law library materials.
Even without the updates, the current collection will satisfy an inmate's Constitutional right of access to the courts, as defined in the Lewis v. Casey decision, inmates will have what they need to bring challenges regarding their conditions of confinement and their convictions to the attention of the courts.
The memorandum contains a proposed list of law library materials that is limited to a selection of unannotated California and federal codes; court rules, forms; regulations of the Department; and six secondary sources. No federal or state case reporter is on the list. Thus, the Department is proposing to adopt policies that return the state prison system to the limited law libraries found unconstitutional in Gilmore v. Lynch, 319 F.Supp. 105 (N.D. Cal. 1970). The attorney general has moved the federal court to dismiss the injunction in that case under the Prison Liti gation Reform Act.