Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

LBJ School’s Graduate Public Affairs Council holds book drive for the incarcerated

Kevin Kim
Gabby Douthitt, member of the LBJ Graduate Student Council, collects books for the Inside Books organization, a nonprofit that donates books and educational resources for people who are incarcerated, on Oct. 4, 2023.

In collaboration with the Austin-based organization Inside Books Project, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs Graduate Public Affairs Council is hosting a drive to collect books and educational resources for incarcerated Texans until mid-October.

“I wanted it to be something, especially at the beginning of the semester, that was low lift on students,” said Gabby Douthitt, community engagement director and second-year public affairs graduate student. “I thought that probably people have books lying around that they don’t really know what to do with, and I wanted to give them a good place to put those books to use.”

The drive coordinator seeks a wide variety of books and educational resources, ranging from trade books to fiction to dictionaries, according to the Inside Books Project website. The books will be added to Inside Books Project’s library, where their large selection helps to fulfill requests mailed in by people who are incarcerated, said Scott Odierno, a coordinator for Inside Books Project.

“Actually, in the world per capita, we imprison more people than anywhere else,” Odierno said. “Because of that, there’s a large demand from people for literature and books in general because most people don’t have any money to buy books. A lot of people, even though prisons have libraries, a lot of times they’re denied access to them or the libraries don’t have these books.”

Odierno said the drive also helps to raise awareness of a recent change in the Texas Department for Criminal Justice’s mail policy. Now, all mail is being transferred to a digital processing system, but according to the department’s website, books will still be mailed physically. This means nonprofits like Inside Books Project have had to reapply to gain approval to mail in resources again, Odierno said.

To keep the drive accessible, the collection bin is outside the LBJ School’s Office of Student Affairs and Admissions, Douthitt said. Additionally, the donation period was extended from Sept. 30 to Oct. 14 to give students and faculty more time to collect books.

Douthitt said she wanted the LBJ community to know how easy it was to stay engaged with the larger community.

Morgan Brown, a public health and public affairs graduate student, said the drive helped her gain a broader sense of the prison systems in Texas as well as increased empathy for those who are currently incarcerated.

“All it takes is one step for you to change somebody’s life,” Brown said. “I’m not saying that me giving someone an anatomy book will change the trajectory of their life, but I always found learning exciting, and so hopefully my passion might shine through and maybe help one of them.” 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misspelled “Gabby Douthitt” as “Gabby Doughlitt.” The Texan regrets this error.

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