Carnegie Mellon University
December 14, 2020

CMU Students Launch Book Drive for Allegheny County Jail Inmates

By Harry “Quincy” Nolan

Abby Simmons
  • Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • 412-268-6094

Students under the guidance of Kathy Newman, an associate professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University, organized a book drive for the inmates of the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ).

The students in Newman's "Banned Books" course initiated the drive in response to the ACJ's mid-November decision (now reversed) to restrict inmate reading to 90 minutes per day on reading tablets or selections from the jail's "leisure library," which, the students said, was insufficient for the need.

Newman first learned of the new policy at the ACJ from one of her students, Elena Delvecchio, a sophomore studying in the School of Drama. Newman then asked the class if they wanted to brainstorm some possible actions in response. Six students volunteered to organize a book drive.

Kerry Mills, a first-year student in the Dietrich College of Humanities and Social Sciences, emphasized the importance of the book drive.

"At the current time, the inmates really only have access to classical literature that not everyone is trained to understand," Mills said. "With the book drive we are hoping to collect books that people from all backgrounds can enjoy."

According to news reports, COVID-19 has severely affected the quality of life at ACJ, with inmates only allowed out of their cells for one hour each day. The students on the ACJ task force realized that these conditions further emphasized the need for new books.

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