Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners returns with book sales: Culture: Smile Politely


This weekend, for the first time in over two years, Urbana Champaign Books to Prisoners will be hosting in-person book sales. Even better? They have three times as many books to sell as usual. The sale will take place on Saturday October 16 and Sunday October 17 at the Urbana-Champaign independent media center. The center is located in downtown Urbana, next to the post office.

Saturday’s sale will run from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., while Sunday’s will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday’s sale will include a bag sale from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., as well as a 50/50 raffle. Books of various genres, including books for young adults and children, will be available for purchase. With the books priced at just 50 cents to $ 2, the proceeds from the sale go to the organization’s mission.





The Urbana-based project has been providing books to inmates in Illinois at no cost by mail since 2004. Organization volunteers read letters and book requests from inmates, and select books from the extensive book collection. donated by the organization and then mail them. . This voluntary organization has sent more than 164,961 books to 22,889 people in prison since its founding. They are the largest resource of their kind in the state of Illinois.

“We hope to improve literacy and post-incarceration outcomes by supporting self-education,” says Elizabeth Abraham, a long-time volunteer at UC Books for Prisoners. “We are also working to educate the public about issues related to incarceration and to encourage educational support for people in Illinois prisons.”

Abraham has volunteered for the program for 16 years and has professional experience as a Correctional Librarian. She has seen with her own eyes the impact of reading on the lives of inmates.

Considering that 95% of inmates end up being reintegrated into society, as reported by the US Department of Justice, this program encourages them to improve their literacy skills and broaden their knowledge before returning home to their families and communities. .

On average, inmates read 17 to 31 books per year. The most requested books in the program? The English dictionary and GED teaching materials.

Studies show that correctional health care is essential to rehabilitation, and the self-education provided by these books is a crucial part of it. These books can also bring a little comfort in the isolating prison environment.

A note handwritten in black ink on a piece of lined notebook paper.  Photo by Julie McClure.Photo from the Books to Prisoners Facebook page.

Abraham says the program often receives letters stating that they have helped incarcerated people become literate. Some write that UC Books for Prisoners is the only mail they receive and that foreigners’ books give them hope.

“You are a boon to the prisoners,” wrote one Danville inmate. “Very often we are forgotten. Your book service is helping our rehabilitation, which prepares us to have a positive impact on the communities that many of us have helped destroy.

“Please send me books that help me know how to treat other people, how to talk to people who are angry all the time, [and] how to be a better person, ”wrote another inmate.

Abraham shares a special situation that really marked her: helping a fellow correctional librarian acquire books related to palliative care.

“A group of incarcerated men wanted to learn how they could provide a hospice for their fellow inmates,” she said. “They needed books to learn how to do it. I can’t imagine taking on such a task as a DIY project and scavenging books to make it happen. It goes against the stereotype that many of us have about prisons and prisoners. “

As of 2001, Illinois Circulating Libraries have had no money budgeted to purchase new books, which means incarcerated people have to rely on family members to send them reading materials or use the books. services provided by UC Books for Prisoners.

Those involved in planning this coming weekend’s book sales expect a large turnout and 140 community members are rallying to help the cause. Proceeds and donations made to the organization help pay for postage, their rented space, purchase of books requested but not yet donated, and maintaining a part-time employee on staff. UC Books for Prisoners is always looking for volunteers to help with a variety of tasks, and no experience is required.

“The most common emotion I feel in people in prison is loneliness,” Abraham says. “There is something special, dare I say sacred, about giving someone a book. “

Please keep in mind that UC Books For Prisoners only serves those currently incarcerated in Illinois state and federal prisons. To learn more or to donate to the organization, please visit their website or Facebook page.

Top photo from the Books to Prisoners Facebook page.

About Nicole Harmon

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