Grant to expand jail’s literary programs, ‘opening up a new world’ for Greenfield inmates

  • Inmates at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in Greenfield discuss the latest book they read in the book club. From left are Carly Collins, Ashley B., Becky, Meaghan Carey and Julie Sheperd. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Carly Collins and Ashley B., inmates at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in Greenfield, discuss the latest book they read in the book club. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Chelsea Jordan-Makely, director of the Griswold Memorial Library in Colrain, hosts a book club at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sarah Hertel-Fernandez, director of the Belding Memorial Library in Ashfield, left, and Chelsea Jordan-Makely, director of the Griswold Memorial Library in Colrain, right, host a book club at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Sarah Hertel-Fernandez, director of the Belding Memorial Library in Ashfield, left, listens as inmates discuss the latest book they read in the book club at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 8/7/2022 5:12:17 PM
Modified: 8/7/2022 5:09:00 PM

Editor’s Note: As stipulated in media release forms from the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction, some inmates are referred to by only their first names or a first name and last initial.

GREENFIELD — A $9,700 grant awarded to Belding Memorial Library in Ashfield will allow for expansion of the literary programs it offers to people incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail and House of Correction in collaboration with Colrain’s Griswold Memorial Library.

Belding Memorial Library Director Sarah Hertel-Fernandez and Griswold Memorial Library Director Chelsea Jordan-Makely started a program with female inmates about a year and half ago, when the Ashfield library received a $10,000 grant from the American Library Association. Roughly a third of that money was devoted to getting the new program running.

The two librarians attend morning meetings with the inmates and bring paperback books for circulation, with James Patterson being the most popular author.

“We want to support the intellectual freedom and lifelong learning of our incarcerated patrons,” Hertel-Fernandez explained, “while fostering positive, lasting relationships with them.”

The grant will allow for expanded book circulation, which is currently offered only in the women’s unit. Funding comes from the federal Library Services and Technology Act, with grant awards being approved by the state Board of Library Commissioners earlier this month.

The grant also will allow the libraries to introduce a program, modeled after programs that have been successful in other states, in which inmates can record videos of themselves reading picture books to share with their loved ones. Their families will receive the recording along with a copy of the book.

Jordan-Makely said she and Hertel-Fernandez want to introduce this program because incarceration “affects and punishes more than just people in jail — it affects their loved ones.”

Library cards

The librarians have also helped inmates sign up for CW MARS (Central and Western Massachusetts Automated Resource Sharing) library cards, which they can take with them once they’re released. These cards give them access to books at 155 libraries across central and western Massachusetts.

“We want them to know once they are released that public libraries are welcoming places,” Jordan-Makely said.

The two librarians already run a book club with incarcerated women at the jail.

“They mostly choose thrillers,” Hertel-Fernandez said of book selection. Tea and cookies get passed around, and the women excitedly discuss the plot of the chosen book of the month.

The librarians create a handout containing book covers and short descriptions of available books, then members of the club vote on which book to read.

“Nonfiction is not my style,” commented Julie Sheperd, an inmate in the book club. “I want to escape. I like science fiction and fantasy.”

On Tuesday, the group discussed “The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware.

“Thank you for bringing it,” Sheperd said to Jordan-Makely and Hertel-Fernandez. “I really enjoyed it.”

The inmates spoke to how literature has helped them expand their horizons.

“It’s important to us that we have access to books,” commented Ashley B., an inmate in the book club.

“Before coming here, I got sober,” shared Becky, another inmate in the book club, “and reading new books has opened up a new world.”

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


E-Edition & Local Ads


Weather


athol forecast

Social Media




Athol Daily News

14 Hope Street,
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Telephone: (413) 772-0261

 

Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.