Since 2003 the non- profit organization called Providence Books through Bars has welcomed community members from across the state of Rhode Island to volunteer their time to help inmates gain education all with the effort to reduce their chances of returning back to the prison system. The garage serves as a distribution center to fill, package and mail books.
Prisoners mail letters to the nonprofit asking for books. Volunteers open and read their letters and search through shelves to fulfill their request.
Most volunteers donate their time on the weekends. Members and guests of The Southern New England Association of Black Journalists (SNEABJ) eagerly gathered on Saturday March 1st.
Providence Book through Bars Director Raymond Grenier greeted the volunteers and thanked them for their participation. I am excited that they could all join me today and help us make a difference for inmates across the country, said Grenier.
Grenier who was previously incarcerated has close ties with the organization and it was his past experience that prompted him to join the Providence Book through Bars program. In the nine months I was locked up, I got two books from the library that were later confiscated and taken away from me, said Greiner.
The emotional statements made by Greiner surprised the volunteers. SNEABJ member Barbara Morse Silva, who is currently a weekday Sunrise co-anchor and Health Check reporter, for NBC10 News in Providence, Rhode Island was taken back with Greniers statement. I had no idea this program existed. I was thinking there were libraries in prison and that inmates had access to books already, said Morse Silva.
Sedonio Rodriques an avid volunteer and board member of Providence Book through Bars.
We saw what happened in prison and we saw what it did to the people and thats why we got into this, said Rodriques.
I was moved by the letters written by the inmates. Most wanted to acquire skills for when they are released back in to society, said Morse Silva.
SNEABJ members mailed more than 35 packages of books across the nation.
Former WPRI-TV Reporter and University of Rhode Island Metcalf Institute Communications Director Karen Southern said it was a rewarding experience. I love books and I enjoy reading. For me its rewarding that these prisoners have books to read.