When people end up behind bars there is one thing they have — time to read. But many inmates in the province don't always have access to books.
A book and bake sale in Winnipeg on May 27 will help raise funds to connect inmates with literature.
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Volunteers with the Manitoba Library Association's Prison Libraries Committee run libraries in four jails around the province.
"We just really believe in what we like to sort of call bibliographic rehabilitation," said Kirsten Wurmann, chair of the committee.
"This is an opportunity to provide access to books either just to help pass the time, but also a lot of them do want to use this time to learn more about their history, about their stories, about how they can perhaps learn from their mistakes and improve things in the future, so that they can also have some hope for the future as well. Books can help you do that."
Wurmann started the committee in 2012 to go into institutions like the Winnipeg Remand Centre and Women's Correctional Centre where there are no libraries. They provide books, book exchanges, author talks, book clubs and writers' circles.
"Interacting and meeting with our community members who are inside prisons, I have story after story after story of people who are really impacted by the fact that we are bringing in books," she said.
Sometimes people just want a big, thick book to pass the time — the author James Patterson is a favourite. But Wurmann said her committee often gets requests for books about parenting, finding jobs, language and, in particular, beading.
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A lot of the people behind bars have never had access to classics, Wurmann said, a fact which became very clear after a book club at the Women's Correctional Centre focused on Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl.
"Now whenever we go in for a book exchange, every woman in the prison wants to read The Diary of Anne Frank," Wurmann said.
While the committee receives book donations throughout the year, they also raise money through the Giant Book and Bake Sale at the Daniel McIntyre/St. Matthews Community Association in order to purchase in-demand reading.
"We need graphic novels and we just don't get a lot donated so we need to go and buy those. We need to buy Indigenous materials. There is such a high population of Indigenous folks inside prisons and we need to have a collection worthy," Wurmann said.
Another common request is Cree and Ojibwe dictionaries, she added.
"Last time we got them in, people were just picking them up and reading them out loud to each other," Wurmann said.
The sale will also help raise money for the Bar None Prison Rideshare Project, which coordinates a fleet of volunteer drivers who offer free rides to Winnipeggers looking to visit people in out-of-town jails and prisons.
"Most of our jails and prisons are located outside of the city, away from bus service and other means of visiting," Bar None member Rowan Moyes said in a news release. "This can result in months or years of isolation and people being cut off from their parents, children, siblings and best friends."
The sale takes place on May 27 from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Daniel McIntyre/St. Matthews Community Association, 823 Ellice Ave.
To provide book donations email firstname.lastname@example.org.