Students at Shawnee State University (SSU) and community members have partnered together to provide books for those who are incarcerated.
Wade Thompson, a student at Shawnee State University and a member of the English National Honors Society – Sigma Tau Delta, created the idea for the drive.
“What motivated me to do this book drive was, I think, a basic awareness of the problems with the prison system in the U.S. coupled with my own personal ethical commitments,” said Thompson. “I believe prisons are dehumanizing and do little to effectively prevent crime, and with the largest prison population in the world I felt a responsibility to find ways to help inmates or to get involved with prisoner support groups in some way. By sheer coincidence, a professor of mine had passingly mentioned a books to prisoners program, so I did some research and found out about Athens Books to Prisoners (ABTP) program. It sort of hit me, ‘Why don’t I do a book drive to help these guys out?’”
Athens Books to Prisoners is an all-volunteer organization that sends books to prisoners within the state upon request. According to Thompson, inmates send them letters asking for certain kinds of books and ABTP does their best to satisfy their requests based on whatever books they have on hand.
“The common perception is that people in prison did bad things, therefore they don’t deserve our sympathy. ‘Prison is a punishment, so why should I care about those on the inside?’ My response to that line of thinking is that reality is much more complicated. We can’t account for all the things that go wrong in a person’s life that lead to their being incarcerated. Not only that, but there are many people in prisons across the U.S. that simply shouldn’t be there, people who’ve been locked up for minor non-violent drug charges, for example. The simple fact is that these are people,” Thompson explained. “They’ve made mistakes, maybe they’ve hurt people, maybe they’ve done terrible things, but we can’t forget their humanity. Prisons are places where we warehouse those society has failed; often the poor, the mentally unwell, people of color, etc. By providing inmates with books, we’re giving them the chance to grow and develop as people. Maybe that’s an opportunity they didn’t have before being incarcerated. And just from a practical standpoint that’s something we should want because many of these folks are going to be out one day. I see this book drive as a great way to positively impact a vulnerable and oft forgotten population.”
The donation center is situated in the back-basement entrance of Massie Hall, in the Women’s and Gender Equity Center, room 019.
Christina Jones, the Coordinator of the Center says that the location of the center proved perfect as a drop-off location.
“You can drive up close to the door and our center is just inside the door. Books can get heavy and it might be hard to transport them all over campus,” Jones said. “Part of rehabilitation is education and we believe in education for everyone, so I think it makes sense that we would provide this space to collect books for Wade and Sigma Tau Delta.”
According to Thompson the most needed books are paperback books, due to prison restrictions, most hardback books are unacceptable, aside from textbooks.
The most needed items include:
- New and paperback books are always preferred due to prison restrictions, but used books are very helpful as well.
- Dictionaries (English, Spanish-English, and Law)
- Blank journals/notebooks (no staples, no spiral, no hard plastic covers)
- Magic Cards
- Dungeons and Dragons
- Recent College Text Books
- African, African-American, Latino/a, and Native American history, politics, culture (and other books by and about people of color)
- GED or basic education materials
- Urban Fiction
- Western Novels
- Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels
- Popular Authors/Titles such as J.K. Rowling, Steven King, James Patterson, David Baldacci, etc.
- Foreign Language teaching materials (Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Swahili)
- Yoga and meditation books
- Paganism, Wicca, Astrology, etc.
- How-to books (art, carpentry, electronics, crochet, music)
- Sudoku or other puzzle books
- Prison issues
- Radical politics
- Alternative medicine
- Addiction and recovery resources
- HIV resources
- Women’s health and feminism
- Queer and Trans resources
- Sex positive erotica (no nudity)
Least needed books include,
- Christian materials
- Out of date reference or non-fiction
- Damaged books
- Most magazines aside from National Geographic, science, art, non-traditional spirituality, and educational magazines.
- “How to get rich” type books and the classics
Donations can be made until Dec. 18.
Reach Ciara Conley at 740-981-6977, Facebook “Ciara Conley - Daily Times,” and Twitter @PDT_Ciara.