The state prison system has shut down the locally-based Books Behind Bars program, Maria Glod writes in tomorrow’s Washington Post, because they’ve deemed it a security threat. As first reported by Bryan McKenzie in Monday’s Daily Progress, the twenty-year-old program has been banned by the Virginia Department of Corrections. Operated out of and funded by the Quest Bookshop on West Main, the program functions without taxpayer dollars, for the purpose of allowing prisoners to better themselves through literacy and education. They’ve provided an estimated one million books to prisoners over the years, according to the Post. Prisoners make requests for books—the dictionary and the Bible are especially popular—which Quest fulfills by mailing books directly to the prisoners, free of charge. The books are treated like anything materials mailed to prisoners, inspected by officials for contraband before being given to prisoners. After prison officials found a CD left in one book and a paperclip in another, they deemed the program both a security threat and a waste of prison employees’ time, and informed Books Behind Bars that they could not send books to prisoners.
Note that prisoners can purchase both books and CDs from approved vendors, and they are permitted to keep up to thirteen books in their cell. So they can receive books, and they can keep books, but they just can’t receive books from Books Behind Bars.
The program’s founder—Quest owner Kay Allison—has asked the Department of Corrections to reconsider their decision, but lacking some sort of pressure other than that of a 78-year-old woman asking nicely, there’s no good reason to think that they’ll change their mind.