Volunteering with the Prison Book Program with The Boston Bar @bostonbar & @ThinkPinkLaw
The mission of the Prison Book Program is to provide free books and educational materials to incarcerated prisoners throughout the United States. It is a grassroots organization that has been sending free books to prisoners since 1972. They are affiliated with the Lucy Parsons Bookstore, which accepts book donations from the public (see the website for requirements for donations).
As you guys know I am involved with several organizations (including Habitat for Humanity and Crittenton Women’s Union) and am passionate about community work. Volunteering at the Prison Book Program was really something amazing. To read the letters from the prisoners asking for dictionaries so they can learn to speak English (and even other languages!) better, books about Europe so they can learn about the rest of the world, books about photography and art and history, to name a few, really exemplified the strength of the human spirit.
On Saturday, we packed for shipping all the books that were already chosen by the previous group.
As one prisoner wrote:
“Books have been created by humans to enter another state of mind. Books are learning devices and time machines. Books are records of what our ancestors thought. They are records of historical events and glimpses of far away places, people, events, real or imagined. The information contained in books can bring comfort to suffering people and inspire others into changing the way they live their lives and interact with other people. People from small towns can learn about the great wide world that exists out there. Lonely people, gays for instance, can realize they are not alone, there are others like them that have gone through the same things they have. Minorities can see that people from similar situations they grew up in have gone on to create successful lives for themselves. Sometimes, characters in books can become friends in a lonely persons mind and heart. Books are physical manifestations of the imagination.”
Listen – I don’t like politics and I don’t get political about anything. Some readers may think that these prisoners don’t deserve to have these books. I am not here to argue about who deserves what.
I volunteered with this organization because I am passionate about educating anyone and everyone. It does not concern me that I am sending books to prisoners or strangers or different ethnicities or to different states or whatever. I would send books to aliens if there was an organization that did that.
This is about human beings and having passion for life, and one of the ways to have passion and to understand what passion is, is through education. I don’t care who you are or where you are or what you are doing or what you have done – humans as individuals are constantly developing and evolving and without educating and without books, that is not easy to do.
Books allow these prisoners to learn and to activate their imaginations and stay sane, and maybe even eventually return to society able to function better than they did before.
Special thanks to Michael Sugar and the Boston Bar Association and Michael Sugar for organizing the event.
Check the Prison Book Program for events, volunteer times, and donation requirements.