An inmate explains why books and dictionaries are important


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Why are books so important to prisoners?

It has been my experience here at Northwest Florida Reception Center that gaining access into prison (so called) library is intentionally being denied by means of coercive tactics designed to thwart inmates attempting to gain access. To explain difficulties allow me to expound upon the malady. No library sign-up forms are being made available to inmates and although “some” inmates do gain access to the inadequately staffed and stocked library system, most do not, myself included.

The fact is the library system has been nothing more than tolerated by prison officials by federal government mandate in order to look to federal overseers as though a library is being adequately provided to inmates. There is in fact a building with a poorly, inadequately stocked library but the great majority of inmates are without any access.

So it should be evident that inmate’s only feasible recourse is to obtain materials from outside sources such as the Prison Book Program.

Why are dictionaries so important to prisoners?

Facts are the majority of inmates are low income African American, Hispanic or Caucasian. Many do not have a high school education and the ones who enroll in prison adult education programs (12 GED), upon completion of programs inmates cannot read at high school level, therefore inmate’s cannot spell either at the high school level. Prisons are filled with uneducated or inadequately educated lower society. Dictionaries are utilized in order to spell words when doing legal work by many inmates, as well as spelling when writing letters, provided the inmate does not room with an educated inmate whom he can ask how to spell various words.

To conclude: most prison inmates are well below high school level of education, therefore dictionaries are widely utilized!

“These men cannot read and write or spell like you or I…” sad but true.

What book as had the largest impact on me and why?

The Desire of Ages by Ellen G. White
This book was written approximately 100 years ago and although I am an avid reader and student of the Bible, I was intrigued and enlightened by the method of writing utilized by Ms. White in her work. The author illuminated the life and teaching of “the Master” Jesus in a most unusual and (extraordinary) way. I read the book approximately ten times in six months and each read provided new insight to the love of God…and into the mind of the Master!

Thank you all for sending literature into the prison system!

-Submitted by Ralph D. White
Northwest Florida Reception Center, Florida


Christopher Zoukis said...

I completely understand where you're coming from! Since the restriction of Pell Grants from prisoners, most higher education opportunities in prison have closed their doors. This is a sad fact which must be rectified.

I'm doing my part. My name is Christopher Zoukis and I am the owner/operator of the Prison Education Blog ( and the Education Behind Bars Newsletter ( you get a chance, check out these two projects. We are a lot alike and can support one another in the cause to educate America's prison populations.

Christopher Zoukis