$600,000 investment will connect families with incarcerated loved ones

East Harlem, NY – Today, Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Majority Leader and Chair of the Cultural Affairs and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries Council Member Andy King, Tony Marx, President and CEO of New York Public Library, Linda E. Johnson, President and CEO of Brooklyn Public Library, and Dennis Walcott, President and CEO of Queens Public Library, and Angela Tolosa, Assistant Commissioner of Program Operations at the New York City Department of Correction gathered to celebrate the $600,000 in Council funding to expand a video visitation program with the City’s 3 library systems to provide free live video services for families who wish to visit with their NYC Department of Corrections (DOC) incarcerated loved ones. The program is offered at 22 public library branches across the five boroughs.

“Maintaining contact with an inmate’s community is highly correlated with reducing recidivism,” said Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “But in order to visit an incarcerated person at Rikers Island, friends and family members usually spend an entire day of travel for a 1-hour visit. This video visitation program will not only decrease the burden on families, but should also help reduce recidivism. I would like to thank my Council colleagues, the Administration and the 3 Library systems for their efforts in making sure that we find ways to connect families.”

As first proposed in her 2016 State of the City the Council and Administration funded $600,000 in FY’ 2017 to expand the video visitation program within the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Public Library systems. This initiative offers video visitation at 22 libraries citywide to friends and families of incarcerated individuals.

“As an 11-year veteran of the Queens Library, I know firsthand the impact libraries can have in strengthening communities and supporting our city’s vulnerable families,” said Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer. “The video visitation program helps families stay connected with their incarcerated loved ones, and helps reduce recidivism by maintaining ties between inmates and their communities. I’m proud of the $600,000 this Council allocated to expand this vitally important program.”

“What I like most about this Video Visitation system is the fact that our libraries will be used to facilitate a relaxed and friendly atmosphere for the families and young children of the incarcerated.  And, the inmates can choose from select children books to read to their youngsters,” said NYC Council  Member Andy King,  Chair of the Subcommittee on Libraries.  “In addition to the comfortable atmosphere, video visitation is easy and convenient.  The system reduces lines and wait times for visitors during check-in as well as removes the possibility of illegal acts between visitor and inmate, such as contraband transfer, since each party is at a different location. This is a welcomed program in the New York Public Library systems.”

“Reading is a critically important bonding experience for children and their parents, and Brooklyn Public Library’s TeleStory program makes it possible for families separated by incarceration to read a book together as if they were in the same room,” said Brooklyn Public Library President and CEO Linda E. Johnson. “We are so grateful to Speaker Mark-Viverito for supporting our expansion of TeleStory to twelve branches earlier this year, and we are thrilled that thanks to her investment, similar video visitation services will now be available in libraries throughout the city.”

“The video visitation program perfectly aligns with the Library’s mission to provide opportunity to all and to strengthen communities by providing hope and support to some of our city’s most vulnerable families,” said New York Public Library President Tony Marx. “The NYPL has offered important services to the incarcerated and their loved ones for three decades, and we thank the Speaker and the City Council for supporting this expansion into six of our branches.”

The Brooklyn Public Library in 2014 launched the TeleStory program that allows detainees to read to their children through videoconferencing in part with both public and private funding. The program has served more than 80 families and 86% of those families had at least one child under the age of 12, while the rest had older children or were parents/grandparents visiting incarcerated adolescents. While most of BPL’s TeleStory participants live in Brooklyn, there is clearly demand for the service citywide, as 25% of participants reside outside the borough.

“While our communities face a host of challenges beyond our doors, Queens Library welcomes and empowers everyone with information, resources and relationships to nourish their minds and uplift their hearts,” said Queens Library President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “Video visitation between families and friends and their incarcerated loved ones is a natural extension of our mission, and we are grateful to Speaker Mark-Viverito and the City Council for enabling us to provide such a vital service at four of our community libraries.”


The Library Video Visitation services are offered at the following library branches:



Grand Concourse

Hunts Point (Opens In January)



Bedford Library

Brownsville Library

Bushwick Library

Canarsie Library

Central Library

Coney Island Library

Crown Heights Library

Flatbush Library

Macon Library

New Lots Library

New Utrecht Library

Red Hook Library



125th Street Branch

Hamilton Grange (Opens in January)

Tompkins Square Library (Opens in January)



Central Library

Far Rockaway Swing Space

Long Island City

Ridgewood Library


Staten Island

Mariners Harbor


About Queens Public Library

Queens Library is an independent, nonprofit corporation that was founded in 1896. With 62 community libraries, a central library, a teen library and two family literacy centers, Queens Library serves a population of 2.3 million in the most ethnically diverse county in the United States. It’s one of the highest circulating library systems in the nation and among the busiest in the world. Visit online at: http://www.queenslibrary.org/

About Brooklyn Public Library

Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) is an independent library system for the 2.5 million residents of Brooklyn. It is the fifth largest library system in the United States with 60 neighborhood libraries located throughout the borough. BPL offers free programs and services for all ages and stages of life, including a large selection of books in more than 30 languages, author talks, literacy programs and public computers. Online at www.bklynlibrary.org.

About New York Public Library

Founded in 1895, the New York Public Library is the nation’s largest public library system, featuring a unique combination of 88 neighborhood branches and four scholarly research centers, bringing together an extraordinary richness of resources and opportunities available to all.

Serving more than 17 million patrons a year, and millions more online, the Library holds more than 51 million items, from books, e-books, and DVDs to renowned research collections used by scholars from around the world. Visit online at: https://www.nypl.org/