Why I Give Books to Prisoners

I give books to inmates. I visit death row prisons. When either of these things comes up in conversation, people always ask, “Why?”

For a long time, I didn’t really have a great answer. People either “get it” or they don’t. Preaching to the indoctrinated is easy, but converting the skeptics is nearly impossible.

Men and women serving time in prisons are told, both explicitly and implicitly, their lives have no value. That they have no purpose. Some of them believe this. I don’t believe it.

Books have built-in messages that there are greater ideals to serve, there is a tomorrow, and there are other people than ourselves.

Many inmates will leave prison someday and walk freely amongst us. Good things happen when prisoners have access to books. Books share knowledge, but they can also create curiosity. My utopian vision has ex-prisoners returning library books rather than returning to crime.

If the penal system’s goal is to reform, then books are only a natural part of this. If you believe in reform, you believe in books.

Many prisoners spent their childhoods without books. They learned how to read in school, but they were never given books at home. They are not illiterate. They are alliterate. They tell me they never owned a book until they were sitting in a jail cell. To deny prisoners books only continues an unprincipled cycle of alliterate behaviors.

A prisoner touched me with his tragic story years ago. In many ways, he changed my life. He spends his days in a prison cell, but his life has value.

So, when people ask me why I give books to prisoners, I always reply, “Everyone deserves a good book.”

Jens Soering - Prisoner and Author


About Blog Boss

Jim MacKenzie and Sarah Giavedoni are the creators of the blogs Stuff Monsters Like, the Incredible Vanishing Paperweight, and more. When they are not blogging, they are devoted to managing the Asheville Blogger Society, watching movies, running a completely unrelated nonprofit, and making money at their paid employment.
This entry was posted in POP Project, Prison Books and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Why I Give Books to Prisoners

  1. Alaina Mabaso says:

    This is great. I didn’t know very much about the US prison system until a job I had for a few years gave me an opportunity to dig into the subject. I do think it’s true that if we can combat illiteracy (or “alliteracy”) and improve our education system, our prisons wouldn’t be so full. From what I’ve learned, education is a huge factor in reducing recidivism rates. I never was aware of an effort to donate books to inmates before, but I certainly would do it.

  2. I don’t believe it either.
    Keep on giving them books. I think you’re making some major decrease in world-suck happen. Most importantly, you’re giving these people something. That’s never pointless.

  3. The Hook says:

    You are a very special person.

  4. Pingback: Why I Give Books to Prisoners « POP Project Book Blog

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