Updated Thu, Aug 28, 2014 5:33 pm
A small group of volunteers gathered in a home on 1st Street, reading letters, choosing books, and packing boxes to send to Ohio prisons. They are a part of the “Athens Books to Prisoners” program, a local group that sends books to inmates upon request.
Sarah Fick spearheaded the program nearly three years ago. After living in Bloomington, Indiana and volunteering for their local ‘Books to Prisoners’ program, Fick thought the Athens community was the perfect fit for this particular effort.
“There [are] a lot of liberally minded people who work here who are open to things like this,” she said. “Also the college! There are a lot of books around. People like to donate them instead of selling them back for two dollars or giving them to the dumpster.”
The group relies on donations from community members in order to stock their library. They often set up tables around Athens with boxes asking for donations. Any books that cannot be used (college textbooks etc.) are sold on Amazon and the money is used for postage.
Prisoners send letters to the group indicating what they like to read. Fick said that many are interested in reading books on alternative religions and the Spanish language. The group then chooses books based off of the individual's interests and sends it to them directly.
Many prisons have rules and regulations on what books they will accept. Some restrict hardback books and many will examine a book to determine if the content is appropriate for inmates.
James Conrath, Lieutenant at the Southeastern Ohio Regional Jail, said they rely on donations from groups like these in order to fill their library.
"The more donations we get for books, the more [inmates] have the chance to read them," he said. "We take as many as we possibly can in here and we go through them thoroughly and make sure that the inmates have every opportunity to at least read something."
At the Regional Jail specifically, inmates have access to the library at least once a week.
Fick said providing prisoners with the opportunity to read a book is extremely important.
"When you are in prison, you don't have anything," she said. "It helps to be like, this is my thing. I get to determine what happens in this book when I am done reading it."
Anyone interested in volunteering, donating, or learning more about the Athens Books to Prisoners Program is welcome to visit their website at athensbookstoprisoners.weebly.com.