Thank you from the 'inside'

It's not unusual for Book Discussion Scheme to receive the occasional card or email of thanks from members who appreciate the service we provide or to share how much they are enjoying their book club. It was a surprise, however, to receive a handwritten letter from a prisoner. 

"I just thought I would take a bit of time to thank you and the team for providing a great service to the men here," writes Andrew* from a men's Corrections Facility.

Andrew is in the high security Kauri Unit at Christchurch's Men's Prison, Paparua, and joined a monthly book group as a way to alleviate some of the "wearisome" and "unvaried" aspects of being in prison. The daytime group is run in conjunction with BDS and led by accredited volunteers.

"[T]he books and the team of visitors ... give up their time to come here to help guys open up their mind to release themselves from the emotional, mental internal prison we hold ourselves in while in this place," writes Andrew.

His group, CHCH 443, are nearing the completion of their first full (10-month) programme. The men are busy choosing their next list of titles from the BDS Catalogue. Andrew hopes the group will choose an "eclectic" mix of fiction and non-fiction.

He says he has been reading more fiction since joining the book group and having the encouragement of the volunteers and the prison's Librarian (the Corrections staff member who runs the in-prison library). While describing fiction as a form of escapism, he also acknowledges that it's a way to "open up my mind".

At the time of writing, Andrew was reading To Kill a Mocking Bird, which he remembers from high school.

Ironically, Andrew used to work in Sydenham and walked past the Book Discussion Scheme office every day. Now that he is aware of what we offer, he says he'll "gladly" tell people about us and suggest they join a book group.

Book Discussion Scheme resources prison-based book groups as part of its 'social agenda' policy. Subsidised book group programmes are offered in conjunction with the National Volunteer Coordinator, Community Partnerships, at the Department of Corrections Ara Poutama Aotearoa.

As at July 2018, 11 book groups meet at 9 Corrections Facilities throughout the country. They operate in both men's and women's prisons.

* Name changed

(generic photo image)

Since the time of writing, we have received another letter from a male prisoner  in appreciation of his book group. He says he wasn't much of a reader but he is thankful to be part of a "friendly, relaxed group' that is non-judgemental and respectful. (November 2018)

Back to All Posts
The Book Discussion 
Scheme is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations in Aotearoa New Zealand
BDS is a member of the Federation of Workers Educational Associations