Behind Dangerous Minds

Local group sends books across U.S.

By  Cher Phillips

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  • Overview of story
  • Overview of Books for Prisoners story Overview of Books for Prisoners story: A story I almost didn't write. (3:30 min. 3.21 MB/MP3)
  • The Writing Process
  • The Writer's Process The Writer's Process: How I approach writing, or how I avoid approach writing. (3:09 min. 2.87 MB/MP3)
Prisoners only are supposed to get three books. Three books from the library. Three books in a package.

But last Friday night, UF graduate Chris Campanaro chose one of Peirs Anthony's Xanth series novels and a mix of four other science fiction and fantasy paperbacks to send to a prisoner in Gatesville, Texas. Campanaro said he'd never read any of Anthony's work.

“In jail, prisoners would just read anything,” he said.

That Friday was Campanaro’s first night volunteering with Gainesville Books for Prisoners, a collective that sends books to prisoners across the United States.

A graduate of the University of Florida, Campanaro said he spent a month in the Alachua County Jail. He said he was allowed to check out three books every two weeks.

"In jail, prisoners would just read anything."

- Chris Campanaro, UF Graduate Geology

He knows what a book means to a prisoner, even if it wasn’t the book they meant to get when they wrote a letter to a group of students on the other side of the country who they’ve never met. Or, will likely ever meet.

Campanaro chose five books, not three, and no one stopped him.

“Books are priceless,” he said.

Gainesville Books for Prisoners sends out about 40 packages a week averaging between 400 and 500 books a month sent to prisoners across the country. A grassroots movement, the group consists of volunteers who meet up every Friday evening to match up books with prisoners' requests. con't. >>>

Cher Phillips | Copyright © April 2005