TOOELE, Utah — A nonprofit run by a Utah woman supplies books to men and women in 35 prisons in 13 states, helping to restock prison libraries often filled with decrepit texts.

Toby Lafferty started the Millcreek-based organization Books Inside in 2010. The self-funded organization mailed about 23,000 books to correctional facilities last year, the Deseret News reported .

In Utah alone, Lafferty sends books to seven jails and created libraries for jails in Tooele County and Kane County.

Lafferty became dedicated to the book cause after visiting a Utah prison in 2008. She said she intended to donate seven books but began volunteering after meeting the state’s first full-time prison librarian, Christie Jensen.

The pair worked to replace the prison’s outdated library, and now the Utah State Prison has a collection of 55,000 books. Lafferty discovered other prisons were in need of new books, leading her to create an organization to assist.

Lafferty identifies prisons in need of books through word of mouth and emails.

“Little by little, we’re finding them,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty cited the example of a librarian in a correctional facility South Carolina who contacted her saying, “I’ve got 1,200 men, 3,000 volumes, mostly old war romance novels.” Each month, the organization sends the facility 50 books that range in genres and reading levels.

“There’s something in every box for everybody,” Lafferty said.

Lafferty said the organization is a team effort aided by its volunteers and those at the prison facilities that Books Inside serves.

“I remember thinking, ‘if it helps one person, that is a life and there’s no comparison,'” Lafferty said.

Information from: Deseret News,

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.