Behind Dangerous Minds

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Ever wondered why what goes in a story ends up in a story? WWhat happens to all those terrific details that simply have no room to live in the space-constrained world of print? What gets cut and what doesn't?

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  • Reporting Process
  • The Reporting Process: How I approach a reporting a feature story, or any kind of writing. (3:48 min. 3.48 MB/MP3)
  • Letters
  • The Letters: When elements are off limits.(4:34 min. 4.18 MB/MP3)

Prisoners' pleas for books motivates volunteers

<<< A stack of bibles gather dust on Books for Prisoners' shelves. Prisoners most frequent requests are for dictionaries. Books on Islam and law books the a close second, according to Bostock.

One would think Tammi Arford spends enough time around books working part-time at Borders Books and Music. But she’s been volunteering at Books for Prisoners on Friday nights for several months.

“Its like shopping for books without having to buy them,” Arford said.

The junior in sociology scored the most popular letter one week in March. A prisoner from Missouri had written a letter requesting accounting books using hand drawn boldface and italics calligraphy requesting accounting books.

Arford marveled over how detailed the letter was, showing it to the other volunteers as they showed up.

Part of the books for prisoner’s volunteers tasks is choosing the books they will send out.

Patricia Faas also enjoys the selection process. She said gets to set her personal choices aside and choose books for people based on their preferences. Faas said she knows how excited she is when she has a new book.

“I can only imagine how happy they must feel when they get the books,” she said.

Books for Prisoners sends an order form out with every package. The forms list genre selections and a place for the prisoners to describe their book choices. It also has a place on the back for the volunteers to jot down a few words.

Arford said one letter struck her began with “First of all, I hope you are doing as well as I am.”

She sat quietly writing him back a note, curving an arm around so no one would see.

“What kind of peace does he have in his life that he is locked up and wishing me well,” she said. con't >>>

Cher Phillips | Copyright © April 2005