Jeff Smith was a state senator representing St. Louis until he was sentenced to prison for obstruction of justice in a campaign malfeasance case. His recently published memoir about his experiences in prison, Mr. Smith Goes to Prison: What My Year Behind Bars Taught Me About America’s Prison Crisis, offers a glimpse into the dismal state of rehabilitative education–and a good example of why getting books into the hands of people in prison is so important:
Many prisoners were anxious to learn how to operate, program, and fix computers, and dozens of prisoners had been requesting computer courses for years. So I was heartened to learn that the warden was requiring a new computer skills class for all prisoners nearing release. One day I was called to the admin building along with other prisoners in their final six months for the start of what I assumed would be a multiweek course of instruction. Two COs herded us into a computer room; one checked us off, and then we waited at the terminals for thirty minutes under his watchful eye. Shortly thereafter, the CO called roll and looked us over. “All right, it’s been about forty-five minutes, so you can leave if you want.” And thus ended our computer skills class. Nutrition class was similar: a CO handed out a brochure with information about the caloric content of food at McDonald’s, Bojangles, and Wendy’s and released us after five minutes.
The Arizona Daily Star did a wonderful article on volunteering in the Tucson community, featuring one of our core members! Why does Nikki volunteer with multiple organizations in Tucson, and include her family in the process?
“It is important to help those in need, whether it is to help out stray or abandoned animals, give water to homeless people around town or provide some education and entertainment for incarcerated adults…We have tried to raise our daughters to become strong, caring, empathetic young women who recognize that they have had opportunities and advantages that many people have not.” Read the entire article here.
Packing parties are a great way to relax and do some great work. Come on your own, with friends, or family! Packing parties occur on the second Wednesday of each month, and the last Sunday. Like our Facebook page for event updates and reminders.
Read Between the Bars has received the paperwork that officially labels us as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization! Donations will now be tax deductible, and allow us to continue to grow as an organization. We are excited with this change for the organization and the people we serve.
If you’re able, please consider donating now. Your newly tax deductible donation will help us pay for the postage required to ship books to incarcerated individuals throughout Arizona. Donations can be easily made via PayPal, or by sending a check to our PO Box.
Did you know that Read Between the Bars is completely run by volunteers and donations? That is why we are so appreciative of the local businesses and community groups that allow us to share our mission to help gather donations. We have had a few places help us out over the last year, and just want to thank them for helping the Arizona community!
A big thank you to…
To find out more about any of these organizations, click on the links above.
At our twice a month Book-Packing Parties, we open a lot of letters from incarcerated individuals requesting books. We always receive intense gratitude and kind words from people who have acquired books from our program. Sometimes, these letters are so eloquent and gracious that we just have to share. From a recent letter, an incarcerated individual wrote:
To Whom it May Concern,
Hello, I hope you are all doing well. It is a great thing you guys do for us and I’d like to
thank you for that. It’s really hard to understand a books worth until you’ve been in a small cell for months at a time with nothing but your mind to keep you company. Then, out of nowhere, you receive a book or two and your able to travel and meet different characters
who become friends, and yes, even enemies…
Anyways, I’d like to request a couple of books please. Thank you for your time.
[Name and personal information redacted]
Our Book-Packing Parties are on the second Wednesday of the month from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and the last Sunday of the month from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m.
To find out more, you can join our email list by emailing us your information at firstname.lastname@example.org, or like our Facebook page and join the packing events.
Join Read Between the Bars on Tuesday, March 31st from 5pm to 10pm at La Cocina Restaurant and Bar for their weekly benefit! Come and enjoy any food or drink that evening, and 10% of the sales will go to support Read Between the Bars’ mission of sending books to people incarcerated in Arizona.
While there, you’ll get to enjoy live music by Mik and Scott and Billy Sedlmayr. Mik and Scott, who are regular performers at La Cocina, use looping bass, sax, drums, and other instruments to create a unique, experimental funk sound. Billy Sedlmayr h
as been a contributor to Tucson’s music scene since his teenage years, when he was involved in local punk bands like The Pedestrians. Over the years, while sharing the stage and studio with the likes of Howe Gelb and Dave Seeger, his sound took a turn toward Americana.
Let us know you’re coming by RSVPing on the Facebook event. Feel free to bring your gently used paperback books to donate at that time. Hope to see you there!
For questions, please email us at email@example.com.
On Saturday, April 27, Read Between the Bars and the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Arizona will present a free screening of the award-winning documentary Broken on All Sides. Directed by activist, lawyer, and artist Matt Pillischer, Broken on All Sides is an independent documentary about the intersection of race and class in our criminal justice system.
The screening will be held at 1:00 p.m., April 27, at the Gender and Women’s Studies Building, Room 100, 925 North Tyndall Avenue, Tucson, Arizona. Admission is free.
A full synopsis is available on the documentary’s website, and a flyer for the event is available here.
Read Between the Bars is excited to announce a new drop-off location for book donations. With the help of a generous grant from the Sparkplug Foundation, Read Between the Bars has been able to purchase a new book donation bin, and with the support of the University of Arizona Poetry Center, that donation bin has been set up in the Poetry Center building at 1508 East Helen Street on the UA campus in Tucson.
The donation bin is located in the Poetry Center’s library. Supporters can leave their new and gently used books in the bin during the Poetry Center’s business hours.
This new donation bin will provide supporters with a second location where they can donate their books. Book donations can still be left at the Tucson office of the American Friends Service Committee at 103 North Park Avenue, Suite 111, in Tucson. Additionally, books can be dropped off at any of our announced book-packing parties.
For making possible the supply of books that have kept RBtB’s books-to-prisoners program running for the last six years, RBtB would like to thank the UA Poetry Center, the American Friends Service Committee Arizona Office, the Sparkplug Foundation, and the many community supporters who have donated their books to support RBtB’s mission.
With the incoming book requests we are constantly receiving–and everything that has to happen upstream and downstream from filling those requests, like collecting book donations, raising funds for postage, and making trips to the post office–it’s not often that we can take a breath and regroup. This month, though, we’re enjoying one of those rare moments, and we would be remiss if we didn’t tell our volunteers that in lieu of our next Book-Packing Party, we’ll be having a planning meeting.
Our Book-Packing Parties are currently scheduled for the second Wednesday and last Sunday of every month (the former in the evening, from 6:30 to 9:00 p.m., and the latter in the afternoon, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.). However, this month we’ll be devoting the second Wednesday of the month to a planning meeting. If you’d like to join us to help us with the brainstorming and planning, we’ll be meeting at Fronimo’s Greek Café (3242 E. Speedway Blvd.) at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 13.
We have a lot planned for the early months of 2013, including a table at the Peace Fair on February 23, another documentary screening, and a new book donation location. If you’ve ever wondered if you’d like to become more involved with Read Between the Bars, this is a great opportunity to interact with us during a meeting and take on any project or any part of a project that interests you–or just help by sharing your ideas and giving feedback to others’ ideas.
Finally, if Book-Packing Parties are what interest you, we’ll return to our normal schedule on February 24, from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m.
Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about volunteering.
What kind of house would you dream of creating after spending decades in a six-foot-by-nine-foot cell?
In 2001, Herman Wallace, a prisoner at the Angola Prison in Louisiana, received a life-changing letter that asked that question. Herman’s House is the acclaimed documentary about his decades in solitary confinement–and his friendship with a New York artist who asked him to imagine different walls.
Herman Wallace is one of tens of thousands of people held in solitary confinement in the United States, even after the UN’s Committee Against Torture has recommended the abolition of the practice. Herman’s House provides a closer look at its devastating effects and an artist’s mission to call attention to its injustice.
On Tuesday, September 18, you can catch a free screening of Herman’s House from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Center for Creative Photography, 1030 North Olive Road, Tucson, Arizona. This film screening was generously made possible by the filmmakers of Herman’s House and is sponsored by ACLU Arizona, AFSC Arizona, the
Hanson Film Institute, and Read Between the Bars.
Dazed and Confused Magazine (UK) calls it a “shrewd indictment of solitary confinement…a protest movie without being sententious.” You can view the trailer at www.hermanshousethefilm.com and follow it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/hermanshousethefilm and on Twitter at @hermansfilm.
Following the film screening, there will be a brief panel and discussion.
For directions and information regarding parking at the Center for Creative Photography, please visit www.creativephotography.org/visit.
The following evening, ACLU Arizona and AFSC Arizona will host a community forum called Arizona Is MAXED OUT. The forum will look at the high costs of solitary confinement and its ineffectiveness at making our communities safer. Each year thousands of people are held in solitary confinement in Arizona, and the state plans to add hundreds more maximum-security prison beds. The forum takes place at St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church (Geneva Room), 3809 East 3rd Street, Tucson, Arizona, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, September 19.