Books donated to prisons

Sorting through a selection of books donated to the Otago Corrections Facility library are (from...
Sorting through a selection of books donated to the Otago Corrections Facility library are (from left) Graduate Women Otago young members co-convener Amy Dowdle, GWO member Mayford Dawson and OCF librarian Antje. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A bequest to Graduate Women Otago has been turned into a benefit for prisoners at the Otago Corrections Facility, whose library will be boosted after several boxes of books were donated yesterday.

A $5000 bequest from GWO member Margaret Cameron to the organisation has been turned to practical use and books have been presented to Christchurch Women's Prison and the OCF library.

"She died in her early 90s and was a home science graduate,'' her cousin, Mayford Dawson, said.

"Her aunt, who was also my aunt, was one of the founders of the Federation of University Women in 1921.''

"I have always been passionate about treating prisoners well - they are still human beings,'' Graduate Women Otago young members co-convener Amy Dowdle said.

"Books have always been such a source of comfort for me in so many ways throughout my life and I think it is such an amazing way to escape, to travel in your mind . . . I thought it would be great to use this amazing bequest to help other people do that.''

The books were bought at the University Book Shop, which gave a 20% discount to stretch the bequest still further.

The books were selected by GWO, but with guidance from Corrections and the OCF librarian.

"We didn't just want to get a whole heap of books which would prove to be useless, we wanted to get things that they would like to read and which would be useful.''

The books in the OCF library were not just for entertainment, but also served an educational and rehabilitative purpose, OCF librarian Antje said.

"In general, two-thirds of the books going out each week are non-fiction - there is a great deal of interest in self-help and business management books,'' she said.

"A lot of them [prisoners] are going through a phase of life where a change is necessary, and books are a help.''

The library's 7500 titles covered a broad range of subjects and contained material pitched at all educational levels, Antje said.

Large-print books were especially welcome as several prisoners had poor eyesight but no glasses.

"This donation is very good - it has allowed us to replace some titles which have become a bit tattered, and it is always good to have new books come in.''

The OCF is going through a literary boom, with an established book club and the announcement on Saturday of the New Chapters award - a prisoner's writing competition backed by Corrections, University Book Shop and the Otago Daily Times.

New books meant new inspiration for OCF's aspiring writers, Antje said.

"They definitely will [provide inspiration], and new books are always welcome.''


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