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Alameda County Library

Social Justice Services: Volunteers

Volunteer Tutors

We are not looking for any particular educational background in prospective volunteers, but it is important that they be flexible, patient, caring individuals who believe they have as much to learn as to teach. We also ask that prospective volunteers not seek to promote any social, political or religious platform within the jail.

We ask that those interested in becoming volunteer jail tutors participate in a screening interview to qualify. Alameda County Sheriff’s Department will conduct a security review for all volunteers working in the jails. Volunteers will also be required to attend a security orientation at the Alameda County Jail.


Prospective volunteer jail tutors are screened by our staff, and, if invited to join the program, must participate in the required combination of online training and classroom orientation. This includes training in basic literacy instructional theory and technique, a substantial orientation to the jail environment, and an in-depth discussion of the rules for volunteers who work in a jail.


We provide our students with tangible reading and writing skills that can be utilized both in preparing for release, and immediately after release into the community. Reassessment is performed periodically throughout the tutoring. Since our program began in 1989, 95% of our students have displayed substantial improvement in their reading and writing ability.

Our program is also part of California Library Literacy Services (CLLS).  As such, we participate in the Roles and Goals reporting process to the California State Library as a means of tracking our students’ progress towards their reading- and writing-related goals. Our interest is in helping our learners meet their goals for improving their basic skills, not solely in helping them achieve increased test scores or grade levels. Learner-centered literacy instruction supports adult learners and their families in their major life roles as community members, workers, family members and life-long learners. 

Start with a Story Volunteers

What Volunteers Do:

Volunteers read stories to children, ages 0-8 years, who visit the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, CA and the Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland, CA on Saturdays and Sundays, 8 a.m. – 11 a.m. (both jails) and 12 p.m. – 3 p.m. (Glenn Dyer Jail only) Volunteers also supervise distribution of books to children who visit the jail. We are asking for a minimum time commitment of 2 hours/week (but are, of course, grateful for any time you can offer.)


Each child visiting the Santa Rita Jail or Glenn Dyer Jail receives a free book to take home, so it is very helpful that you have some interest in and basic knowledge of children’s literature.

Each volunteer will be required to complete a “Site Security Clearance” form, which is a basic, Sheriff’s Department required check of any active wants or warrants. Remember that Santa Rita and Glenn Dyer are… jails!

We welcome youth volunteers, but please note that all volunteers under the age of 18 will be required to have a “Parental Permission Slip” signed by a parent or guardian and on file with our program before they begin volunteering.