Pages for Individuals in Prison, a subcommittee of the Associated Students Human Rights Board dedicated to expanding the reading materials available in California correctional facilities, hosted a university-wide book drive in January, collecting a total of over 350 books.
Volunteers organized no-contact pickup or drop-off time slots with each donor to mitigate COVID-19 transmission. In addition, Pages for Individuals in Prison (PIP) organized a donation box at the UCen, which was open from Jan. 19 to Jan. 22.
With a strong belief that everyone deserves the right to read, PIP volunteers, such as Project Director and third-year sociology major Julia Chin, emphasized the need for a book drive due to the strict rules surrounding reading materials in prisons nationwide.
“There is a lot of censorship across the nation when it comes to people who are incarcerated having access to books,” Chin said. “One of the problems is that a lot of the libraries that used to be in facilities have shut down due to funding or new restrictions. In many places, including California, all books and reading materials have to come from third-party sources.”
The volunteer group was revived last school year after Chin decided to work on an unfinished project started by a former Human Rights board member.
“The project entailed about 900 letters [of book requests] that had been sent from people who are incarcerated all over California and we spent the better part of last year trying to retrace steps of where these letters came from, who they came from and how to respond,” Chin said. “That was the starting off point.”
In January, the group refocused its efforts on the book drive, as its members nearly doubled in size to approximately 12 volunteers. After collecting books, PIP will solicit new letters from those in prison to fulfill their literary requests.
“I figured the student body was a great place to start,” volunteer and third-year environmental studies major Lizzy Mau said. “I sent Instagram messages, posted on the Associated Students’ social media and then had an all-student email sent out week one of winter quarter. We’ve basically been managing outreach by contacting as many people as possible.”
The group faced storage issues as a result of the campus being closed this quarter, as they had more than 40 individuals and one sorority house signed up to donate reading materials.
“We are trying to store them in our apartments in I.V. even though we don’t have a large group and space is super tight,” Mau said. “The second biggest challenge is coordinating the logistics of pickup and dropoff because obviously, we want to take all these books.”