Today, November 15, 2018, is the feast day of St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Confessor & Doctor of the Church, (c. 1193 – November 15, 1280), (and the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas) according to the 1962 Roman Missal, and you can buy a copy of the 1962 Missal at Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Roman-Missal-1962-English-Latin/dp/0954563123/ref=sr_ and there is an article about him at Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albertus_Magnus
The definitive piece though is from Tradition in Action at https://traditioninaction.org/SOD/j230sd_AlbertusMagnus_11-15.html
Giving Books to Prisoners
Very nice work being done by this nonprofit in Appalachia, as reported by BuzzFeed. (Hat tip to Stacy)
There’s a scene in The Shawshank Redemption — that 1994 feel-good prison break classic — when after more than six years of effort, our scrappy inmate-hero, Andy (Tim Robbins), finally receives funding to begin building a prison library. Soon, bookcases are being assembled, boxes of dusty used novels are being unpacked, and Andy is rattling off where to file the works of authors like Robert Louis Stevenson and Alexandre Dumas (whose name is initially pronounced “dumbass” by the inmate doing the filing).
“By the spring, Andy had transformed a storage room smelling of rat turds and turpentine into the best prison library in New England,” a dulcet voiceover from Morgan Freeman tells us, as the camera pans to a bustling room filled with inmates plucking books from well-stocked shelves and crowded around hand-carved wooden reading tables.
Reality, though, isn’t so charmingly bespoke. Today, prison libraries are hit-or-miss, more often falling on the “miss” side: frequently barebones, stacked with outdated textbooks, or littered with battered romance novels. Some prisons are even attempting to do away with libraries entirely, instead placing the burden on inmates to pay for e-books. In Pennsylvania, inmates have to pay for a $147 tablet in order to read books.
“The quality of the libraries is very uneven. People don’t have access to the books they really want to read, particularly if they’re on a specific subject. Some prisons try to do interlibrary loan, but it’s a very delayed service and, again, limited,” explains Katy Ryan, a professor at West Virginia University and cofounder of the Appalachian Prison Book Project.
Ryan shows me a recent letter from an inmate in Tennessee describing the library at his correctional facility. “Our library here isn’t very big, and besides, getting to it takes an act of Congress,” he says in nimble, attentive handwriting. “I am an indigent inmate and have no T.V., radio, etc., so books are my life. A fellow inmate said you guys could help me get some new reading material.”
Fortunately, he’s written to the right place.
The Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) is a nonprofit organization based in Morgantown, West Virginia, that sends free books to incarcerated people across six states in Appalachia: Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. Founded in 2004 by Ryan and fellow professor (and recently elected Morgantown deputy mayor) Mark Brazaitis, APBP was born out of a class Ryan taught on the literature of incarceration.
“While reading works from formerly incarcerated or currently incarcerated people, we learned how important books were to them,” Ryan explains. “I mentioned to the students that I didn’t know if a prison book project existed in West Virginia. It turns out, there wasn’t one in the entire region. So, we carved out those six states, and committed ourselves to sending books to people who wanted them.”
Ryan’s all-volunteer organization started its work from a church basement, then operated briefly out of a graduate student’s apartment, then finally found a home inside the Aull Center, a historic building in downtown Morgantown where the small, donated office space — which Ryan says has “an ineffable spirit” and volunteers frequently reference in magical terms — is stacked high with incoming letters and outgoing books. At any given time, there are up to a dozen volunteers, all of whom have been trained in the APBP system, matching inmate request letters with books on hand — or putting out feelers to rustle up a book on the topic (or by the author, or in the language) requested. The majority of books donated are from the local Morgantown community, but APBP also regularly receives packages filled with novels, how-to guides, and beyond from across the country. Soft-covered books are preferred to hardbacks (which are more difficult to get into prisons), and when it comes to anything small-press or handmade — comic books, zines — staples are a no-go. The entire process is powerful in its simplicity: Once a letter is paired up with a proper book, volunteers simply record it in a handwritten log as a “match,” then deliver it to the post office.
Retrieved November 13, 2018 from https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/sarahbaird/appalachian-nonprofit-sends-free-books-prison-inmates