book clubs in Canada’s federal prisons

The Globe and Mail discusses federal prison book clubs again. Previously.

The inmates themselves say they value the social aspect of books – the man who fought for a dictionary gets his wife to read the same books so that they have a common experience to discuss – but also they see books as a way of gaining access to themselves.

“I usually read non-fiction. The books we read in book club I wouldn’t necessarily pick up,” one older prisoner says. “But I am really glad I read them, and each and every one I have more insight into myself.”

“Feelings aren’t really popular around here,” explains the inmate who prefers reading over drugs. “[Reading provides] a kind of freedom that we can’t access at the point in our lives where we are and really taps into a bunch of emotions. Groups like this, little pockets of honesty, expression, are at a premium.”

Others say they read books simply to stay sane inside.

“This is heaven for me,” one enthusiastic newcomer to the group says. “It’s a place where I feel like a human being.”

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