WA Dept. of Corrections to no longer allow nonprofit book donations

WA Dept. of Corrections to no longer...
WA Dept. of Corrections to no longer allow nonprofit book donations

It’s been a tough pill to swallow for the nonprofit Books to Prisoners, which is headquartered in Seattle with satellites in Olympia, Spokane and Portland.

“We take requests from prisoners all around the country for reading material and then we get donations from the people around Spokane and send them out,” said Hannah Dean, a volunteer at Books to Prisoners-Spokane.

She said not being allowed to send books to inmates in their home state of Washington has been upsetting and came as a quiet announcement from the DOC.

“They didn’t give any warning whatsoever that they were planning on doing this,” she said, “they just sent out a notification after it was done.

The Washington Department of Corrections says they are limiting the donations from nonprofits as they are trying to limit contraband in their facilities.

They provided this statement to KXLY.

The Department of Corrections is dedicated to ensuring safety for incarcerated individuals, staff and greater community. Various strategies have been implemented to reduce the introduction of drugs and other contraband into its correctional facilities. The department chose to implement a policy to discontinue accepting used books from nonprofit organizations to ensure publications had appropriate content and were free of contraband.

The incarcerated population has full access to books through our strong partnership and contract with the Washington State Library system. There are full libraries in eight of the twelve facilities and conduct a comprehensive inter-library loan system for the remaining four minimum facilities.

Book donations are accepted by the Washington State Library headquarters’ location and at the prisons. The Washington State Library has both staffing and systems in place to evaluate a publication’s content and markings as well as check for contraband introduction. If at a prison, please ask to speak to the librarian to accept or deny the donation. Please also inquire for the types of donations they are seeking.

They were not immediately able to provide numbers as to how many nonprofit books were found to have contraband.

“I think it’s unnecessary, no one is sending contraband with these books,” said Dean, “we are just sending reading material, that’s all it is. We follow the rules, there are a lot of restrictions around the country.”

The DOC highlights that it is also about limiting inmate access to inappropriate material in books. That can be content that promotes violence, is sexually explicit, or describes certain groups of people as inferior.

Dean says a Change.org petition has been started to reverse the policy change.

For more on Books to Prisoners, click here.

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