Public Defender Crowdfunds Jailhouse Library

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 04, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If there's anything good about being in jail, at least it gives you time to read.

Of course, it's hard to read if you don't have books. That's the problem public defender Amalia Beckner wanted to solve for prisoners at the Harris County Jail.

So she asked her Facebook friends to donate to the cause. Now she's got more books than Andy Dufrane.

Jailhouse Library

It started with a Facebook post, and soon turned into a newspaper story. So far, Beckner has raised more than $5,000 and received more than 500 books.

"I remember we got one $500 donation, and I just sat there with my mouth open," Beckner said. "I was just shocked."

Beckner's campaign was bigger than books and money, however. Literature donations also flooded the jail -- 10 to 20 boxes. It's changed prison policy.

Before the rush of reading material, officials had limited jail pods to five books each. "We changed it because now we have more inventory," said Don Savell, who manages the jail chaplaincy.

One Book at a Time

The real story started three years ago, when Beckner gave some reading material to one of her clients. He was in the Houston jail, but had plans to go to college.

Other inmates asked Beckner for books, too, and she obliged. She told the Houston Chronicle that she wanted to make a change.

Now she's talking about a book club, although she hasn't chosen the first book yet. "I wanna find something with some hope," she said.

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