DOCCS’ Law Library Program provides basic resources for legal research and preparation of legal papers. Legal assistance services are available to incarcerated individuals who are unable to do their own legal work. Incarcerated individuals who are law clerks and have been certified through a department-sponsored legal research course, provide these legal assistance services or refer individuals to free legal service organizations in the community.
Other services usually available through the Law Library Program include notary services, photocopying legal materials for a fee, typing services, and provision of legal writing supplies.
Law Library Programs are administered at the correctional facilities by the Deputy Superintendent for Programs or equivalent. The daily operations of Law Libraries are managed by a Correction Officer or another staff member. Most Law Libraries employ incarcerated individuals as book clerks, typists, legal general clerks, paralegal assistants, or administrative clerks.
Department Directive 4483 establishes guidelines for the operation of this program. DOCCS’ Law Library Program has been developed to meet the United States Supreme Court mandate that the incarcerated population has access to the courts.
Individuals in general confinement facilities are eligible for Law Library services. Individuals with verifiable court deadlines may obtain special access to the Law Library. Those not permitted to visit a facility’s Law Library Program because of their disciplinary or protective custody status or their health may receive outreach services from the Law Library.
Legal Research courses are available at the larger correctional facilities. These courses are offered to provide the Department with a cadre of trained incarcerated individuals who serve as law clerks and assist in maintaining the law book collections and provide free legal assistance services to their peers. Participation in these courses is limited to those with an HSE or higher education credential and a satisfactory disciplinary record. Legal Research Certificates are issued to those who successfully pass this course.
Most correctional facilities offer a Law Library Program. Individuals assigned to Work Release facilities may avail themselves of free legal assistance services or law libraries in the community.