Prison Book Program fosters literacy behind bars in Mississippi
Friday, November 24, 2023
A Mississippi-based organization is providing free books to incarcerated individuals to promote literacy and pave the way for prison reform.
Prison book programs have been distributing free books to inmates in the United States since the early 1970s.
Miranda Vaughn, program assistant for the nonprofit Big House Books, said they have been sending books to incarcerated individuals throughout the state since 2014. She explained they collect book donations from the community and supply them to incarcerated individuals upon request. Inmates can request specific titles, authors or literary genres through letters.
"Every person who writes to us gets three books, regardless of whether they ask for 20 or they asked for one," Vaughn noted. "We just send them all three books. They have to be paperback only, and we always ask that they're in good condition. Any time we can send them new books, obviously, we try to do that as well."
Vaughn emphasized they operate mainly on the generosity of individual donors and volunteers. While the organization sometimes receives small grants, its primary source of funding is individual contributions, typically ranging from $5 to $20 per month.
Vaughn added they have not run into any issues so far with the book bans in Mississippi prisons, but some city and county jails throughout the state are a little stricter about what they will accept.
"We are written into the Department of Corrections policy as a book vendor. They have to accept our books," Vaughn stressed. "But some of the local jails and stuff that aren't really under that jurisdiction can pretty much have whatever restrictions they want, and we really can't do anything about it."
Vaughn said this GivingTuesday, they are asking the public to donate more books to help them send 1,000 packages to incarcerated Mississippians. They have a financial goal of $5,000 and she added each package contains three books to educate and transform an incarcerated person in Mississippi.
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