Books 2 Prisoners is a community-run initiative aimed at helping incarcerated people with education by directly sending books to them. Photo courtesy of Books2prisoners Instagram page.
JHAMESHA MILORD ASHFORD – OTTAWA • ON | 05-03-2021
The Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre is now receiving books for prisoners from local chapter of Books 2 Prisoners.
Books 2 Prisoners is a grassroot, non-profit, community driven collective that sends books to incarcerated people across Canada and in the U.S., particularly in California and Texas. The organization also engages in activism and fighting for prisoner’s human rights.
Volunteers connect with the librarian at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, where they send four books a month.
Between 2002 and 2003, students and staff at the Ontario Public Research Group from Carleton University launched the initiative after being inspired by prison justice activism.
“I think books in general are, essential for the wellbeing of prisoners because, it increases their literacy skills, it helps them increase their learnings and critical thinking, and they can build skills you know whether it’s learning about how the law works and how they can fight for their rights,” said Jeffrey Bradley, the co-chair of Books 2 Prisoners Ottawa.
Bradley also strongly believes literacy can help resist the prison industrial complex and the institutionalization that happens when people go to prison.
The opportunity is regimented, with a set of rules for everyone to follow, which can be challenging for some volunteers. Certain prisons don’t allow books with a hard cover and there’s also some censorship on the type of content incarcerated individuals can read.
“Prisoners are not having access to books that are critical of the system.” says Bradley.
“It’s censorship right on accessibility to just information and being able to have different resources at your disposal,” he adds.
Prior to the pandemic, prisoners would send out letters to Carleton U requesting which books they’d like and then volunteers would meet, respond to letters and package books. But now with COVID-19 restrictions, volunteers meet online and Bradley and the other co-chair of B2P, Jane Crosby, send out books and letters directly from their homes.
The group has been doing public call outs on social media, asking for books and the community has been responding pretty well.
There’s currently a big demand for books about self-help. If you’re able to donate a book, you can send them a direct message to their Instagram @books2prisoners, email [email protected].
Here is CHUO’s interview with Jeffrey Bradley: