By Christopher Zoukis How do you escape? Many people would say they’d mostly curl up with a good book, and so do we. Books are a way of getting away and seeing things from a new perspective no matter where you are, even more so if you don’t have the opportunity to do so otherwise.
Even in the darkest of nights the moon gives off a faint glow. The same is true of the world of American corrections, even in Florida’s private prison paradise. This light — and the hope it brings — comes from an unlikely source with an unusual mission: Open Books’ Prison Book Project.
The Prison Book Project is a volunteer books-to-prisoners operation. Founded in the year 2000, when it used to be based in the now closed Subterranean Books (Pensacola, Florida), it is presently hosted at Pensacola’s Open Books.
Open Books, a nonprofit bookstore located at 1040 N. Guillemard Street in Pensacola, Florida is open every day from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM. Its volunteer operators can be found selling discounted books to the public. But on Wednesdays, the real transformational magic is breathed into being.
Every Wednesday, the Prison Book Project volunteers take over and get to work. They open stacks of mail from prisoners across the state of Florida. While they can handle around 40 requests each week (due to mailing expenses), they receive around 70 requests a week from prisoners seeking books, an outlet to something greater than their prison cells. The backlog of hundreds of requests shows the value, importance, and respect prisoners have for this project.