Program gets books to prisoners
When Robert Gasparro graduated from law school and went to visit one of his first clients in prison he found the man bored, with nothing to do. On his next visit Gasparro brought some books. A guard, however, prevented their delivery, explaining that books are considered contraband unless they come from either a publisher or an approved program. That's when Gasparro, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Delaware County in Media, Pennsylvania, got involved with Books Through Bars, a national group that provides books to prisoners.
The agency is headquartered in a storefront in Philadelphia and sends books across the country in response to thousands of requests from prisoners. Gasparro says Unitarian Universalist congregations and individuals in the Philadelphia area have donated books to the organization. Books Through Bars gets thousands of letters from prisoners requesting books. Volunteers meet twice a week to read the letters and try to fulfill the requests with donated books.
“Nearly every letter from every prisoner carries a personal note and a thank you or a blessing,” he says.
Gasparro is working on funding for a program to increase book donations. He notes that some prisons still do not accept any books for prisoners, and he is hoping to change that through legal action.
The Unitarian Universalist Association is dedicated to studying prison reform as one of its two-year study action issues.Books Through Bars is one of at least twenty similar groups across the United States and Canada. Their addresses are available on the Web site, www.booksthroughbars.org.