News / USA

For Inmates, Restoring Books Can Repair Lives

An inmate at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Maryland, repairs a damaged library book. (VOA/J. Spierling )
An inmate at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Maryland, repairs a damaged library book. (VOA/J. Spierling )
At the Montgomery County Correctional Facility in Boyds, Maryland, a small group of inmates repairs damaged library books.

Sitting at a long table covered with glue, scissors and tape, the six men fix broken spines, reassemble torn pages and replace missing covers.

They've received special training to do this delicate restoration work, which they perform five days a week.

In the process, inmates like Gregory Wallace are learning new skills and earning “good-time credit” which could help reduce their sentences.

“I like doing the spine detachments because those are the books that get thrown away,” says Wallace. “It’s easy to tape a loose page back together but once the spine comes apart basically those books go in the garbage.”

By Restoring Books, Inmates Repair Their Livesi
|| 0:00:00
X
December 06, 2012 9:33 PM
More than 60 percent of ex-convicts in the United States relapse and are back behind bars within three years. Prison officials are using a variety of programs to help reduce recidivism -classes, vocational training, therapy. A correctional facility in the state of Maryland that has introduced a program to repair lives by repairing books.VOA's Julie Taboh reports.

According to Wallace, when he first looks at a damaged book, he feels it’s “mission impossible,” but when he sees that people are pleased with the final result, he feels a lot better for doing it.

And in restoring the books, he believes he's healing himself, as well.

“I didn’t have a very strong work ethic,” Wallace says. “I chose the streets, and being that I chose the streets, here I am now. But just being able to come in here and do something productive has shown me that I can be productive in society as well, instead of choosing a different direction.”

Many of America’s prisons are revolving door facilities. More than 60 percent of ex-convicts find themselves back behind bars within three years, according to federal statistics.

Prison officials use a variety of programs to help reduce recidivism: classes, vocational training, therapy and, at the Maryland facility, the book repair program.

Building confidence is one of the goals of the program, says Warden Robert Green, who developed the book-repair project.

“The biggest problem we have in American corrections, and international corrections worldwide, is the amount of violence inside our systems. Period. There is no larger problem,” he says. “So if we can address the violence issue where people see value in the work that they’re doing, some worth in their existence inside those walls, perhaps violence will go down.”

Green has been at the Maryland facility for 12 years and has been a warden or senior administrator for 20 years.

“I have never stopped believing that if you give a person tangible worth inside the facility, and something to do with their time," he says, "they will avail themselves of it and do the very best that they can.”

Since the program began in April 2012, 22 inmates have repaired more than 400 books, which are sent to the facility by six area public libraries.

Boxes arrive several times a month, with volumes in a variety of sizes and on a wide range of topics; everything from art and history to children’s books. Many are no longer in print, but now, thanks to the inmates' work, they are back in circulation.

And that gives Wallace hope for his own future.

“My goals are to go home, get a job, might not be the job that I want, but to get a job and apply for school,” he says.

Following its initial success, the book repair project will be expanded early next year to all 21 public libraries in the county and Warden Green hopes to eventually accept damaged books from local public schools and colleges, as well, and get more inmates involved.

“I don’t make excuses for crime, criminal behavior, but when we have a captive audience, shame on us if we do nothing to help them change their lives,” Green says.

Government representatives from more than a dozen countries, including Saudi Arabia and China, have visited the Maryland facility to learn more about the book repair program, suggesting it might one day help to change lives all around the world.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Ian from: USA
December 08, 2012 1:36 PM
The program makes so much sense. When a person can repair something, that person will come to the conclusion that he/she is capable to repair his/her life as well .

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid