Over Half of Illinois' Prisons Don't Have Adequate Libraries


Statistics show that more than 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level. The reasons why can be argued for days. But Lolita Dumas blames the system's failing libraries.

"So in Illinois there's approximately 26 prisons, but out of the 26 only 16 have functioning libraries," said Dumas. "So most often, inmates are receiving books from books to prisoners."

Dumas is the coordinator of Books to Prisoners, a Champaign-Urbana organization dedicated to collecting and shipping books to fill the empty shelves. They believe reading is the key to an inmate's success once he or she is released.

"It's important because many of these members are actually going to be returning to society and we really want them to have the ability to develop their skills so when they come out they'll be more apt to make a living instead of returning," said Dumas.

Jason Mierek has been supporting Books to Prisoners for 5 years.

"To me, books provide entrees in to ways of viewing the world that prisoners maybe never had," said Mierek. "And I think that can be transformative."

Sunday afternoon, the organization hosted a book sale. They receive hundreds of donated books from the community and sell some of them to cover the cost of shipping them to prisons in Illinois.

"We can only ship.. like.. 12 pounds.."

Per box.. and because they want to send so many.. it costs.

"And so often, we're shipping about 4 or 5 boxes to one facility," said Dumas. "Based on fundraisers like our book sale, it helps determine whether or not we can keep that weight limit or if we have to reduce it and send less books."

So far.. this organization has sent 94,000 books to prisoners across Illinois.

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