I started a book club in a prison


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I appreciate your concern Hesperides. I will have your advice in mind. Even if they did not check my bag, to enter the prison was a very long process. I was also with a responsible of the section that works there from 31 years. The "helper" was choose by the responsibles. The door was open. I felt secure. At any moment I felt danger. In the part where those classes are done there are people that are not inmates. Next time I will check with more concentration, maybe ask some questions about the security of volunteers. Yesterday was everything new but I can rely with my intuition if danger is near. I can feel danger when danger is near, I was not an angel myself when young. And I am not scare. Scare attracts predators, you know. I was a little nervous. But to be nervous is not to be scare.

Thank you for your advice, again my dear friend. More information will come next week and I always will have my anteanas in full movement. You are right to give me these advices and I respect them because you know more this island than me.


FOTCM Member
Just following Hesperides' post: Loreta, did you have any meetings before you started, with the prison personnel or the prison psychologist, about how to ensure your safety during these meetings, in case something happens?

I am asking, because when I was in the first year at college, one of our professors, the head of the department of psychology, created a group of volunteers (myself included) to participate in group therapy with the inmates of our town's prison. Our above mentioned professor has been already volunteering at the prison for years, and he gave us a thorough overview of the conditions there, what to expect, the appropriate ways to behave and talk, safety measures, etc. In other words, he prepared us, just in case, eventhough in the years he volunteered there, nothing bad ever happenned. We also got a lecture by the prison security, when we arrived the first day. We never had to use any of the safety measures, but just being aware of them, made us feel safer. Not just because the inmates might have done/said something inappropriate during the group - towards us or each other - but also in case of fire, natural disaster, injury, somebody feeling anxiety/stress/reliving trauma/emotionally unwell due to the discussion....etc. So it wasn't just about ours and their physical safety, but also ours and their emotional safety.

I don't know about your group's population, but ours included some of the island's most notorious criminals/murderers, as well as people who were just doing time because their religion did not allow them to participate in the - mandatory for Cyprus - army service. So all kinds of people. Of course we were barely in our 20s at the time, so we approached the entire experience with a mixture of fear and overexcitement for the opportunity to meet all these really bad people we heard so much about :umm: It was a very interesting experience that only lasted one semester, and we learned a lot about pity, manipulation, and how to bring the subject back to personal rensponsibility in shaping our life - again, and again, and again... We learned a lot about ourselves too, our prejudices, our vulnerabilities, how unprepared we were to become anyone's therapist :lol:

So I agree with Hesperides caution, and these are things to keep in mind at all times when you are in contact with people you don't know and you have the role of the facilitator among them. And if you haven't had the "talk" yet with the psychologist or somebody else at the prison, maybe ask them what the procedure is in case something happens (even if it's an earthquake or a volcano erruption!) and always keep yourself in the room at a position where you have easy and fast access to the door ;D

Other than that, I wish you great success with your group. Books offer us many lifetimes in experience and knowledge, and thus they help us grow. Even if only one person from your group starts appreciating books for the reasons we do, that alone is a great service to the universe I think :thup:

Edit: Just saw your last reply Loreta. I see that you answered already my question above.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Nice loreta. Congratulations, and safety on your new Journey.

Alana brings a very important aspect with your endeavor, and it reminded me that her information might come handy.

If it's OK, i will contact a relative in the states. She was a former prison guard at a complex in California. An all men's penal institute.

I will first, run that information by the moderator's, and then go from there.

OK, good luck, and Thumbs Up :thup:

The Maximum Security Book Club
Reading Literature in a Men's Prison
About the Book
A riveting account of the two years literary scholar Mikita Brottman spent reading literature with criminals in a maximum-security men’s prison outside Baltimore, and what she learned from them—Orange Is the New Black meets Reading Lolita in Tehran.

On sabbatical from teaching literature to undergraduates, and wanting to educate a different kind of student, Mikita Brottman starts a book club with a group of convicts from the Jessup Correctional Institution in Maryland. She assigns them ten dark, challenging classics—including Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Poe’s story “The Black Cat,” and Nabokov’s Lolita—books that don’t flinch from evoking the isolation of the human struggle, the pain of conflict, and the cost of transgression. Although Brottman is already familiar with these works, the convicts open them up in completely new ways. Their discussions may “only” be about literature, but for the prisoners, everything is at stake.

Gradually, the inmates open up about their lives and families, their disastrous choices, their guilt and loss. Brottman also discovers that life in prison, while monotonous, is never without incident. The book club members struggle with their assigned reading through solitary confinement; on lockdown; in between factory shifts; in the hospital; and in the middle of the chaos of blasting televisions, incessant chatter, and the constant banging of metal doors.

Though The Maximum Security Book Club never loses sight of the moral issues raised in the selected reading, it refuses to back away from the unexpected insights offered by the company of these complex, difficult men. It is a compelling, thoughtful analysis of literature—and prison life—like nothing you’ve ever read before.

Book Club for Inmates
Published on Mar 22, 2012
Sam & Ian, both members of Gravenhurst Inmates book club, speak to the importance of the book club and the positive influence that reading has had on their lives.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thank you so much to all of you for your inputs. When I entered the prison yesterday I was with the responsible of the psychological section, the man who works there since 31 years. He talked a little bit about the prison, the inmates, but nothing about security. I will meet him next Thursday again so I will ask him. Don't forget I am in Spain. In Spain things are very different. What is important for volunteers in another country,here they seem to see volunteers like nothing. But this attitude is everywhere: at the jobs, in airports, everywhere there is no concern for security, rights, etc. So yes, I will ask him some questions concerning security, if he have information when a inmate can loose his temper, become violent, etc. Even if there is always someone checking from the office... we never know. You are right.

Still I am not scared. The inmates that follow these educational activities are OK, compared with others. If they are there it is because they showed improvement in their attitude and behavior. But I will inform myself a little more.

Thank you for your excellent advices.


Jedi Master
FOTCM Member
Very cool idea Loreta and i think it takes great courage on your part to create something like this. I hope we can continue to read about your journey through here. And I'm curious as to if you re you only going to be reading non-fiction books?


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
wand3rer said:
Very cool idea Loreta and i think it takes great courage on your part to create something like this. I hope we can continue to read about your journey through here. And I'm curious as to if you re you only going to be reading non-fiction books?

Thanks wand3rer. For the first book we are reading a very small book by a very interesting Italian writer about a detective story that talks about detective stories (roman noir). The language is simple and the book is just 80 pages long. I really don't know what we will read next time. I prefer to make read novels, for now. In novels you have everything: psychology, suspense, human characters, human situations, etc. And novel can take you out of your prison. But next one? I don't know...

I really love this activity that I created by myself, I am a little proud of it but we will see if the project continue well. I hope!

This night I wake up thinking about how intense and human was the first class. I mean, they talked from their inside, and I saw a sort of their reality that is hard, a saw solitude, I saw sadness, I saw the need to talk, to share. Many emotions in so little time (one hour). So this night I told myself how strange is all of this and how many things I will learn also. Lessons everywhere! and share and give and receive.


Jedi Council Member
FOTCM Member
Hi. I think this is wonderful. I know you will find the great books and that it will be significant experience.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member

loreta said:
Thank you c.a. about the books about Book Clubs. Superb!

Your welcome loreta.

I was able to touch base with my contact in the states. With her permission here's what she outlined.

This info is not an insinuation. Better, a reminder. Good Luck L.

FWIW, and FYOI, Some sage insight within the prison complex in states, (USA).
I am a female and have worked in a male prison for 15yrs.

I hope I can give you some insight that will help you stay safe:

1. Remember where you are at. This is a prison full of predators that watch and listen to everything you say and do.

2. Dress appropriate. The only women these men see are during visits or female guards in uniform.

3. Be respectful. Your approach of what and how you say things can be the difference in your safety. Respect is all these men have left, they have nothing else to loose.

4. Be, Firm, Fair and Consistent. Treat them equally, and you will have no problems. Showing Favoritism will be a real headache.

5. Change your daily routine. Never do things the same everyday, such as roll call.
Place yourself where you can be seen by the prison guards, if they walk by.
If you are in a class setting, leave the door open at all times. This is for your safety.

6. Introduce your self to the prison guards and staff. Don't be afraid to ask them for help if you have a problem with an inmate. That's what Guards are paid to do.

7. Never do favors for Inmates. Inmates are looking for a weak person to pry on.
They will ask you for things to bring them from the outside:
a phone,
mailing a letter for them etc.

Just say no.

8. Let them know your personal space. Arms length, inmates will test you by how close they can get to you or even touch you.
If this happens excuse yourself and find a Guard. And report it. This is not an accident, it is very well planned.
It also sends a message to other inmates that you will not tolerate that type of behavior.

9. Walk in with confidence. remember not to wear perfumes or a ton of make-up. Be yourself, and down play what you look like out in public..

10. A good book to read is called;" The game that criminals play", it is written by Bud Allen and you can find it on amazon.
Bud Allen was one of my sergeants and supervisors, his book should be read by all that work in a prison setting.

I hope this helps. (contact)

Games Criminals Play: How You Can Profit by Knowing Them (With comments from purchasers)
by Bud Allen, Diana Bosta
A bestseller for over two decades, this fascinating resource exposes how criminals try to control the behavior of correctional personnel--how to recognize, prevent, and stop manipulation. Learn how inmates observe and select victims. Also, see how they gain their confidence and sympathy and make demands.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thank you and thanks to your friend! for these good advises. Some I know (how to dress correctly, this is a nighmare because I try to be almost androgynous ah aha,) and the director adviced me about to say no if they ask me to bring them things from outside. The door open I will be aware of that. The others points are really good and new. I did not think about my space, I am a person that touch very easily (I am a true Latina) so I have to be aware of this, no to touch and not to be touched. And have physical space between them and me. I did not feel invaded in my personal space the other day but I will be very aware and touchy about it. I will try also to respect their space. I go without perfume and no make up, never in fact. All the points are so important! I am really grateful for this, C.A. Thank you very much.

caballero reyes

The Living Force
Hi, Loreta, you have already learned to communicate your ideas and this project can be very productive for both the promoter and those who receive the benefit, which can be so important that they can change their lives. Congratulations


FOTCM Member
This is very nice, loreta, good for you - there will know doubt be lots to learn in the process and the opportunity for the inmates to learn is thus amplified too.

That was good advice cited above, c.a.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
I think this will be an amazing learning experience for you which will benefit all who get involved. Also it's a courageous thing to do so good luck to you in your new project. :read: :hug2:

I don't know why but when you talked about potential books to read I thought about Pauli Coelho. Personally I found them easy to read with interesting story lines and messages. My favourites were the Alchemist, Veronica decides to die and The Valkeries but there are more and all good reads.


FOTCM Member
That sounds pretty exciting, loreta!

loreta said:
Some read once in a while a book, one never read a book, another is obsessed by North Korea.

That is interesting that someone would be obsessed with North Korea. Most people don't care. Let me know if you find anything worthy in Spanish.

Good luck with your adventure!


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Thank you for your encouragements! Today I have my second class. It is not easy to find something to read for them, next book will be another detective book written by a Canarian author that is very good and a little funny and the action pass here, in the island. I wanted also to let them see movies, that is not easy also, the movie will have to be without sex, not at all. I was thinking for the first one "Modern Times" and also "The Big Fish". Advices are welcome!

Paolo Cohello is not in the list of the lot for the Club Books. Others are on the list but not enough books for my group. For the Korean guy, I checked some articles on the web for him but they are so propagandistic that no way. I was looking something like how the USA killed so many Koreans during the war but for now I did not find anything in Spanish. I have to check more.

I will let you know how things go. I am very happy with this adventure. Learning is really fun!
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