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Brooklyn Public Library's Rikers Outreach Worker Wins Pulitzer

Medar de la Cruz works for BPL's Justice Initiatives program.
Medar de la Cruz's illustrations were published in the New Yorker magazine in May 2023.

Brooklyn Public Library’s Medar de La Cruz, who provides library books to people who are incarcerated, on Monday was awarded the 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Illustrated Reporting and Commentary.

A talented illustrator, the Pulitzer prize committee said his black and white images “humanize the prisoners and staff through their hunger for books," according to a news release. 

“All I hope for is that this prize can make even the slightest of difference in highlighting the services that libraries provide in our city, especially during a time when our libraries are facing immense budget cuts," de la Cruz said.

I also hope that people will become more aware of the types of conditions the incarcerated folks of Rikers Island endure, he added. 

"I’m very grateful for my colleagues who go to Rikers on a regular basis to provide library services to people that are deprived of nearly every sense of humane treatment. I dedicate this to you and to all librarians,” said de la Cruz.

Photo: Supplied/Medar de la Cruz via Brooklyn Public Library

In addition to his work as an artist, de La Cruz is part of Brooklyn Public Library’s Justice Initiatives program, providing library services to persons who are incarcerated on Rikers Island.

His illustrations, drawn from memory after returning home, were published in The New Yorker in May of 2023. Because photos are not allowed on Rikers Island, the illustrations give witness to the people behind bars and the importance of books while incarcerated.

Brooklyn Public Library’s Justice Initiatives program provides services to incarcerated New Yorkers and their families including library service in prisons and the award winning Telestory, which allows family members to visit with a loved one who is incarcerated from a safe and private space inside the library.