Book Drive Aids Inmates

There’s new escapism for inmates at London’s provincial jail, after a book drive added 1,700 titles to its library.

The drive for the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre was organized by Frontier College, a national literacy organization that trains volunteers to promote reading skills and act as tutors.

London’s City Lights Bookshop on Richmond St. was the drive’s largest contributor, providing about 700 titles.

The shop joined Frontier’s efforts after receiving a request for books from former owner Marc Emery, now serving time in a U.S. prison for selling marijuana seeds to Americans through the mail from a cannabis-related Vancouver store.

Shipping books to Emery at the Georgia prison wasn’t feasible because of a hefty price tag, said City Lights co-owner Teresa Tarasewicz. But that didn’t get in the way of supporting a good cause, she said.

“Even if we can’t send books to Georgia, it doesn’t mean we can’t help inmates here. They’re the people everyone forgets about.”

She said reading is liberating, and a world without books an “abyss.”

“I think it’s important to give access to books to everyone. A book could possibly change (a) life.”

A team of eight volunteers worked hard to collect books from local shops, students and individual donors, said Ed Dunsworth, Frontier’s community co-ordinator in London.

He believes in the long run, the books will benefit inmates and society as a whole. “A few different studies I’ve seen quote that inmates who engage in literacy and educational activities are less likely to re-offend.”

Ellen McKegney, volunteer service coordinator at the detention centre, said the inmates are respectful, polite and regularly thank the library staff.

“Here, there is a lot of sitting, a lot of down time and a lot of alone time. Reading keeps their minds active,” she said.

– Article from The London Free Press.