Tuesday 24 January 2012: Books Through Bars
One of the earliest group projects I ever got involved with after deciding I was an anarchist was Books Through Bars. A fellow I knew named Todd Peterson had been in contact with prison inmates who had little access to reading materials and usually no way of getting what they wanted to read. I remember him mentioning a gay prisoner who was dying of AIDS and who asked for books to his liking. Todd knew that if he didn't send the books, no one would, and the man would suffer an extra measure of insanity for that reason.
Todd had friends in Seattle who had a books to prisoners effort. It was the only one in the country and was run by anarchists, but it was very small. About a year after Todd and then his co-workers began shipping small amounts of books in this way, there started to be weekly cafe-meetings in this building (called the A Space), where we would open the letters, pack up the books, drink coffee, and talk politics. It was a tiny activity and sometimes too few people or none would show up. Then Barbara Hirshkowitz got involved, and to make a long story short, the tiny, casual project became quite serious and steadily grew into a huge affair. Barbara was as fine an activist as any that have walked the Earth.
For ten years I was very active. My major role was to haul the book packages to the post office in my truck and deal with the very quirky regulations and schedules there. This picture shows the basement, which in 2002 I gutted, parged the walls, and then built into a library as you see it. I refurbished the rear half of the first floor as well, and that is the BTB office with still more shelving.
What I first knew as a few people doing a little bit for the inmates is now the mother of all books-to-prisoner programs in this continent. There are twenty-eight of them now. The books are provided to individual inmates for free upon request. All the books and postage money is donated. All the work is done by volunteers.
Well that's my blip for the day. I would have blipped the dead possom I found and removed in a coffee sack, but it had been too badly treated by a car, so I didn't.