Prisoners should have access to paper books

By Miguel Gonzalez

Literacy is a significantly valuable skill in society. Whether it be through computers, phones, newspapers, books, flyers, signs or one of the many other sources of the written word, people read regardless of their ethnicity, socio-economic background and physical ability.

E-books do not offer the same experience as hard copies. (Flickr)

Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections announced its plans to halt book donations and exchanges at prisons in order to encourage inmates to use e-books instead. With book exchange programs, inmates are allowed to receive any type of book from donors and relatives through request. According to WHYY, inmates could even request books from publishers through catalogues.

The current book exchange system will now undergo changes in order to curtail the practice of sneaking synthetic drugs into prisons. While it’s important to enforce policies that prevent drug use in prisons, the department’s new policies will have heavy consequences.

According to Slate, inmates will now have to purchase a tablet that will cost approximately $147, and then also buy e-books to load onto the tablet that can range between $3 and $25.

It will be difficult for inmates to read if they cannot afford the devices, and prisoners will be at a high risk for losing their only connection to the outside world.

For some prisoners who grew up in poverty and received poor public education in overcrowded schools, reading books provides a chance for rehabilitation and growth. Reading facilitates learning and allows inmates to familiarize themselves with literature and other types of educational material. Also, reading books gives inmates another way to pass the time while they’re stuck in prison serving long sentences.

Reading also plays a huge role in maintaining any successful democracy. No matter the circumstances, prisoners should never be restricted from any reading resources.

The American Library Association emphasizes this concept by stating that “participation in a democratic society requires unfettered access to current social, political, economic, cultural, scientific and religious information. Information and ideas available outside the prison are essential to prisoners for a successful transition to freedom.”

I believe prisoners should have access to as many books as possible. Nothing beats the feeling of opening a book and engaging with a story for hours on end. Reading helps prisoners with coping psychologically and can help to strengthen mental health. Prisoners already live miserable lives, so why remove one of the only opportunities to improve their quality of life?

Students share opinions around campus

“Should inmates have access to donated books?”

Lauren Hollowniczky, a sophomore psychology major. (Katherine Holt / Opinions Assistant)

“Prisons should implement education programs to assimilate inmates after their sentences.”

Rupak Doctor, a sophomore marketing major. (Katherine Holt / Opinions Assistant)

“Prisons’ main priority should be reform rather than holding.”