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ACEs in the Criminal Justice System

Discussion and sharing of resources in working with clients involved in the criminal justice system and how screening for and treating ACEs will lead to successful re-entry of prisoners into the community and reduced recidivism for former offenders.

NYC Books Through Bars (


I recently slipped through a sidewalk cellar door to enter the basement of Freebird Books, a large space crammed with books organized into different sections, where I spent the evening reading letters from prison inmates and selecting and packaging books for them. At least twice a week, volunteers go through the 700-800 letters NYC Books Through Bars, a collective based in New York City, New York, receives from inmates every month and fulfill their requests.

It's a team effort. Founded 21 years ago, the group seeks to provide "humanitarian outreach to people who are incarcerated," says Daniel Schaffer, a coordinator at the organization. All books are donated, as are the brown bags used as packaging — the only expenses are postage and tape. The organization is always looking for volunteers. Freebird Books allows the group to use their basement for free. Bluestockings, a collectively-owned radical bookstore that's also based in New York City, serves as the group's official mailing address because many prisons mandate that books be sent directly from a bookstore or publisher. Another local bookstore, Greenlight Bookstore, maintains a wish list on their website of books requested by inmates.

Books help alleviate isolation and empower inmates for re-entry. NYC Books Through Bars sends books directly to prisoners because it doesn't want to supplant the library services that prisons should provide. Still, inmates often share the books with others on the inside. Inmates reach through the distance by sharing their thoughts in the letters they've sent to the group:  

"I appreciate your kindness and assistance in providing me books about dogs. I'm doing a self-study in reading everything I can about dogs, their health care, training, veterinary medicine, and laws that protect them from abuse and cruelty. After my release from prison, I plan on dedicating the remainder of my life to the lives and safety of dogs," wrote one inmate.

Another expressed his gratitude by donating what little he could: "Thank you for the knowledge you sent me and I will make sure I put these books to use. Enclosed is three stamps the organization can use for future mail delivery."

To read more of Alessandra Bautze's article, please click here.

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This is welcome news. When I worked for Prisonsers Family Center in our state capitol city, we had 'apprenticeships' for former prisoners returning to the capitol area to undertake an assortment of tasks at our State Library, with some librarians who 'trained' them. Allies in 'Inter-Library Loans', and other tasks, made it quite helpful to them, as well as for 'home-bound' folks wanting books to read, etc..

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