Our May volunteer of the month, Melanie, has been volunteering with Books to Prisoners since September 2017 and has put in a truly impressive number of hours since then – almost as much as our paid program coordinator! We sat down with Melanie to chat about Books to Prisoners and what inspired her to start volunteering. Here’s what she had to say:
What attracted you about Books to Prisoners specifically?
There was a large list I was looking at, but I was attracted to BTP because I so believe that our prison system should be about rehabilitation, and this seemed like one concrete piece of that that I could contribute to.
As a volunteer, you spend a lot of time reading prisoners’ letters – are there any that stick out to you?
I wouldn’t say one in particular. But what impresses me about the letters is how thankful they are – most people spend their entire first paragraph thanking Books to Prisoners. And there are such a wide range of interests. And such an array of beautiful handwriting!
Is there anything that prisoners request that surprised you?
Dictionaries. I didn’t expect that.
Has your experience at Books to Prisoners impacted how you think about the correctional system?
Not really. I’m surprised that there are so many restrictions and I don’t know why prisons aren’t more open to books. That’s changed my view a little of prisons themselves; I assumed they would value books coming in. And I think they should.
As an organization centered on books, we’re always interested to know if you have any favorite books, authors, or genres?
I’m a sucker for self-help. I’m in the medical field. I just read You Are a Badass and I loved it – so funny!
The very first book I ever read from cover to cover, it was called Little Vick. I checked it out from the library and hid it under my bed – I lied to my parents and told them I returned it to the library.
Any words for people thinking of volunteering?
I think they should because it’s eye-opening, and it’s a really casual environment, a fun group of people, and the hours are great!