After visiting a jail for the first time last year, a Macon paralegal has organized a book drive, collecting books for area inmates.
Despite working at the Law Office of Kevin Bradley for a decade, Lacey Harville first visited a jail last year.
The loud echo of the locks clicking and doors opening and shutting made an impression on her.
“I was nervous, just scared out of my mind,” she said.
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Noticing a door ajar, she peeked in and saw a few books on a bookshelf.
Months later, she put out a call on Facebook soliciting book donations for inmates.
Since November she’s delivered more than 150 books to area jails, some of them from her family’s collection.
For Harville, reading fantasy novels and biographies is a way she escapes from her daily routine. She says it’s calming.
“Everybody should have their chance to escape their own personal hell,” she said.
Although jails hold people awaiting trial, not all inmates are bad people, Harville said.
“Some of them are innocent. It’s not our place to decide whether or not they’re guilty or innocent, but it’s important to make sure that we take care of them until we figure it out,” she said.
Some of them are innocent. It’s not our place to decide whether or not they’re guilty or innocent, but it’s important to make sure that we take care of them until we figure it out.
For the inmates who have run afoul of the law, “reading can be a second chance for them,” Harville said. “It can be life-changing.”
Area jails have different policies regarding donations and how books are distributed to inmates.
In Bibb County, the jail hasn’t had a library since jail renovations repurposed the space several years ago. Books are stored in an office and are distributed to inmates on request, said Bibb County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Chris Patterson.
Maj. Tonnie Williams said the sheriff’s office is considering a new delivery method, a book cart being pushed around while inmates are in their cells to allow them to choose what they’d like to read.
No magazines are allowed. Inmates can check out books, but must return them before they’re released, Williams said.
The books are checked for damage when they’re returned, but that’s not just to keep them in good condition. Pages can be used to jam locks and clog the plumbing. Soot from burned pages can be used for tattoos, he said.
Patterson said inmates have access to cable TV and can buy playing cards, chess sets, checker boards and dominoes while they’re incarcerated.
A lot of inmates do read them.
Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece said of books
Houston County’s jail stocks books in the inmate housing areas and swaps them out regularly among the housing pods, said. Capt. Beth Shafer.
With a mostly male inmate population, the jail is in need of more books geared toward men such as westerns and mystery novels, Shafer said.
“We get a lot of historic romance” novels, she said.
In Monroe County, inmates are allowed to visit the jail’s library twice a week and check out up to two books, said Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Lawson Bittick.
Jones County Sheriff Butch Reece said his jail also accepts book donations and signs out books to inmates.
While the jail has a good supply of reading material, he said, “we can always trade them out for new ones.”
“A lot of inmates do read them,” Reece said.
The Peach County jail used to have a library, but closed it after experiencing problems with pages being flushed in toilets clogging the sewer lines, said Sheriff Terry Deese.
Now, inmates who haven’t had behavioral problems are issued books through the assistant jail administrator, he said.
In general, area jails accept books of most any genre as long as they aren’t explicit or contain nudity.
Anyone seeking to donate can contact Harville via her Facebook page, Reading In Jail: Is Reaching Through The Bars or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.