Some BCFOL members are doing time at the Blount County Detention Center (BCDC). Following a request from the BCDC Volunteer Coordinator, Chaplain Randy Cruise, to Larry Ackley, the Friends Coordinator, a new volunteer opportunity was created - manage the jail library. Larry even coined a name for this novel group: Jailbirds.
Right now, these jailbirds are Judy and Larry Ackley, Claudia Erwin, Linda Stackpole, Charlie Butera, Dolores Philpot, Sharon Bowers, Kellie Frazier, Janetta Baker, and Steve Williams. The job is for a team of two to spend an hour or so each week sorting and reviewing paperback books and readying them in book carts
Correction officers are responsible for delivering the books to the jail pods, receiving exchanged books, and returning all books to the detention center library. Bibles and dictionaries do not count toward the one book a week prisoners can pick. While a good number of books are already in the library, most are the kinds that appeal to women, who are the minority of the jail population.
Male prisoners outnumber female by a good amount, about 100 women to 450 men. Romance novels, others of that type, and cozy mystery novels are not high on men’s preferred list of reading material. They typically like more action based fiction like westerns, military, sci-fi, and mystery novels, especially by male authors. There is a good supply of Chicken Soup for the Soul, self-help, religious and reflective type books for both genders. Because many of the women are pregnant, relevant books are stocked as well.
Chaplain Randy, aka “Padre,” leaves the choice of books for the detention center library up to the BCFOL volunteers. Church groups continue to donate books and the jailbirds are busy looking at library discards and other resources to improve the jail library collection.