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.


1 Comment

  1. Catharine Leach on

    Bravo to City Lights Book Shop in taking on this initiative to improve the quality of life and educational opportunities to prisoners in Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre. Books are wings!

    Many studies and research papers published have consistently shown that prisons offering library and/or literacy programs have a beneficial impact on those prisoners’ reintroduction to society.

    Books are one of the most valuable learning resources we have as a society, and they provide a great opportunity in humanity’s never-ending quest for knowledge, and disseminating that knowledge. Encouraging literacy reduces recidivism and increases the chances of inmates staying on the “outside” and living a more satisfying, profitable life after they are released.

    Furthermore, prisons that have a robust library for their education and leisure leads to better inmate morale, more respect and gratuity towards prison staff, and the opportunity to become more insightful, knowledgeable members of society.

    Books are so important and so greatly needed in prisons all over North America; to force a book to be thrown away is an absolute travesty.

    I do sincerely hope that D. Ray James Correctional Institution in Georgia (where Marc Emery is being held) will re-think their current policy forbidding inmates to donate books and publications they are finished with to the prison library. This does nothing but hamper the ability of the prison’s library to thrive and be a real resource for education and leisure.

    Forcing inmates to either return the books to sender, or throw them away in the garbage – rather than having the option to donate them to the library is an unreasonable policy. Donating books to the library hurts no one, and can only help the prison population there.

    I encourage anyone in the Educational/Literacy/Prisoner Advocacy fields to contact D. Ray James Correctional Institution and respectfully, politely request they rethink their policy forbidding inmate donations to the inmate library:
    D. Ray James Correctional Institution
    3262 Highway 252
    Folkston,GEORGIA 31537
    United States
    Phone: 912-496-6242 Fax: 912-496-6147
    Email: DRJ/[email protected]

    Winston Churchill once said, “How we treat inmates is a measure of our own morality.” How true. How very very true.