The Center for Appellate Litigation‘s Books Beyond Bars Program is the newest component of CAL’s holistic approach to client advocacy. Founded in November 2016, BBB’s mission is to provide reading materials to indigent incarcerated individuals and to advocate for policies that support prisoners’ access to information. BBB’s goal is to encourage literacy, education, self-empowerment, person growth, and simply to provide a brief escape from the dehumanization of the criminal justice system.
Since its inception, Books Beyond Bars has sent thousands of books and magazines to indigent individuals in New York jails and prisons. Initially a program limited to CAL’s clients, BBB now also sends reading materials to the clients of two other major public defense offices, covering individuals convicted in criminal courts in all five boroughs.
Most BBB participants will return to New York City after their release. It is important that they have the tools to reintegrate and find personal success and fulfillment. We hope that our program can, at least in some small measure, advance them towards that aim. We routinely purchase training manuals and study guides so our clients can learn skills or trades they are interested in and can leverage, upon re-entry, to advance their careers. We stock our shelves with high-school equivalency books, so our clients can prepare for re-entry into a society where, fairly or not, formal education is a prerequisite for so much.
As importantly, we hope that by the seemingly simple act of sending a book in the mail, we can demonstrate to our clients that, although the New York justice system has largely failed them, there are good people in New York City who remain committed to their welfare and who care about them as human beings.