With more than 600 books already collected, La Verne’s College Republicans club looks to increase literacy in inmates nationwide through a book drive.
In conjunction with the local nonprofit Prison Library Project, the College Republicans started a campus-wide book drive three weeks ago with a goal of 1,000 books.
Contributions from students and faculty have already put the club above its halfway mark.
“We’re just overwhelmed with the generosity,” said Constance Rossum, professor of marketing and management and College Republicans faculty adviser said.
All of the books collected will be donated to the Prison Library Project, which circulates books to more than 600 state and federal prisons and detention centers each year. The books help educate and rehabilitate prisoners, Rossum said.
“One of the things we hope to do is to help inmates spend their time in useful ways that perhaps, in some small way, will benefit them when they come out of prison,” she said. “Some have mentioned they were able to earn their GEDs because of the books they were sent. Others had a new lease on life.”
Correctional education was found to reduce recidivism, or repeat offenses, according to a study released last month by the nonprofit RAND Corporation. Inmates who received an education were also more likely to find employment once released.
The idea of helping others enjoy an education motivated the club’s officers to initiate the book drive.
“They have a right to learn just as much as anyone else,” club vice president David Asbra said. “If they are able to come out of jail, don’t you want them to be educated so they can come out and actually contribute to society?”
Club members were aware of the criticism a project like this could receive.
“Of course we’re going to have people wondering why we’re helping out rapists and killers,” club treasurer Amanda Madrigal said. “We’d rather have them want to change themselves. Maybe they’ll get inspired by what they read and want to be better by the time they come out.”
Club president Nicholas Vasquez attested to books’ power to change people.
“My brother is an inmate right now, and I know he has changed a lot and just sounds like a totally new person,” he said, crediting authors like Mahatma Gandhi for this personal transformation.
The College Republicans described the book drive as a small but powerful solution to the prison system problem.
“Republicans see themselves as a party of solutions,” Rossum said. “This is one small step in the right direction.”
The book drive is scheduled to continue until the club has reached its goal of 1,000 books. Students and faculty who wish to contribute should leave their books in the appropriate bin by the library exit.
“Just take a look at a shelf in your house,” Vasquez said. “Really think, ‘Am I going to read these books?’ If you’re not going to read them, help someone out who will. They don’t have the luxuries that we do to do anything else besides reading. They’re stuck in a cell for most of the day. You can benefit yourselves and benefit them.”
The College Republicans will next meet Thursday in Campus Center Ballroom A from 7 to 10 p.m.
Des Delgadillo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.