ASHLAND Salvation Army Maj. Jason Swain was in bed with COVID when his staff received a request about donating books to the Boyd County Detention Center.
“My staff thought it was a great idea and two deputies showed up to take several boxes with them,” Swain said.
Swain understands the impact literature has on those behind bars.
“You can learn anything about just reading,” Swain said.
Prison books are commonly used for entertainment purposes to help pass the time – others are used for educational purposes, self-improvement, and even religious endeavors.
Swain noted that the gift contained a bit of everything when it came to book genres.
“Ladies like romance novels and detective novels. Men usually ask for science fiction,” said Boyd County Deputy Jailer Bill Hensley. “Tom Clancy’s books are frequently requested.”
Hensley said inmates are allowed to request novels using an electronic request system and can even purchase books using their commissioner on tablets.
The tablets also contain legal libraries accessible to inmates.
Swain previously worked for a publishing bureau where he learned that the popularity of books in digitized form was plateauing.
“You can never replace the physical copy of a book,” he said.
“The turning of the pages, the ability to mark it, to highlight it,” Swain listed attributes that can’t be found on a screen.
Hensley said the public had often tried to donate books directly to the prison, but had to be turned down for security reasons.
Hensley said the prison generally only accepts donations from outside organizations, like the Salvation Army, to ensure the books don’t contain contraband or banned material.
“Books need to be replaced a lot,” Hensley said. He said that because hardcovers aren’t allowed, paperback versions don’t hold up as well over time.
Hensley added that the prison likes to keep a rotating library so inmates can access new content.
Anyone from the public wishing to donate books to the prison must first send their donations to The Salvation Army. They will eventually end up in prison after a selection process.
Swain and his team hope to develop a partnership with the prison to continue donating books for as long as needed.