Defense attorney launches book drive for jail library

Published 6:06 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Through her work as an Assistant Public Defender, Melanie Sellers often finds herself visiting clients incarcerated in local jails, like the Carter County Detention Center.
“When I go see clients at the jail I often walk past the book cart,” Sellers said. “I love books, and when I look at the book cart, it makes me sad.”
Because non-legal reading materials are not something that state law mandates detention centers provide for inmates, funding is typically not available to purchase books for a reading library. Local jails find themselves relying on donations from the public to stock book carts.
Sellers, with the permission of Carter County Sheriff Dexter Lunceford, is launching a drive to try to collect books for the jail’s library.
“I just think books are a wonderful way to give them something else to think about and you never know what might inspire somebody,” Sellers said.
As part of the drive, Sellers is collecting new or used paperback books. Trade credits or gift cards to Mr. K’s Used Books will also be accepted.
Because education and reading levels vary, Sellers said books written for young adults or middle school level readers would also be appropriate to donate.
Lunceford said there are some limitations as to what sorts of books the jail can accept for donation.
“It can’t have any type of implied or direct sexual content,” Lunceford said. “It can’t have content promoting rioting or other actions to disrupt the safety or operations of a correctional facility. Because of that, some political books can’t be accepted.”
Books which provide information on constructing bombs or making weapons are also prohibited, Lunceford said, as are books detailing the manufacture or trafficking of drugs.
“We look at all those things to make sure we can accept the book,” Lunceford said. “You can’t let just anything into a jail.
“Bibles would be great,” Lunceford added. Devotionals or Bible study books would also be appreciated. Jail Administrator Capt. Eric Trivette will review all books and determine if they can be accepted, Lunceford said.
The most important thing, Lunceford said, is jail staff will not accept hardback books due to safety issues.
In addition to screening the books for content, staff will also search them to ensure no contraband is smuggled in.
Sellers said books for the drive can be brought to the Public Defender’s Office located at 1500 W. Elk Avenue, Suite 205, on the second floor of the Medical Care building, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or she can pick the donations up. For large donations, Sellers recommends donors call ahead as it may be easier for her to arrange for the books to be picked up. The phone number for the Public Defenders Office is 423-547-5861.
Lunceford said donations can also be brought directly to the Carter County Detention Center and given to Jail Administrator Capt. Eric Trivette.

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