Books: Get out of Jail (Gaol) Card

I missed this article in the New York Times Book Review a few weeks ago but I generally check back before I delete the emails.

I love this idea: read a book, do a course in literature and you get out of jail (gaol) instead.

Before I left New York, I had hundreds of books and donated them to a prison system non-profit organisation. I heard about the group through a free-cycle notice I placed that I had boxes of books that I wanted to part with to which they replied.

Two young, strapping men came up to the house and took them away but before they did we talked.

I've always been interested in how the prison systems work, have visited a few and always come away disoriented and sad.

I can't image how it must be feel to be locked up, and I can't really understand why so many find their way into the system. Oh, I understand the psychology of poverty, the feelings of alienation, but I don't quite get the need to act out our rages, resulting in incarceration.

My last visit was to the Boys Section at Riker's Island. I prepared myself for the potential shock of seeing so many young men in one room, but even after sufficient preparation I was alarmed at their dialogue and attitude--so much anger, so many misconceptions, so little grasp on facts and too little social bridging with day to day life.

I was there that day to talk to them about HIV/AIDS prevention.

I don't think I made one iota of difference but I did try.


  1. At one point some friends of mine started up a books to prisons project for Baltimore. It was very hard for us to get the word out to the prisoners about our service. I have immense respect for anyone serving these under served populations.

  2. Good work trying, Kim.

    The CJS (Criminal Justice System) is a tight group. On a few occasions, even though I worked for the DOH, they refused me entry.