Oconee County Democrats is in the final stretch of a book collection for inmates of the Oconee County Jail.
Pat Priest, organizer of the book drive, said today that the group already has delivered more than 400 books to the jail and has more waiting to be picked up from collection sites around the county.
Soft-cover only books can be donated at the Athens West Cleaners, 1720 Epps Bridge Parkway next to Krogers, the Farmington Depot in Farmington, The Krimson Kafe, 40 Greensboro Highway, Watkinsville, and Let it Be Yoga, 90 South Barnett Shoals Road, Watkinsville.
The collection runs through April 30.
“I’m especially pleased by the diversity,” Priest told me in an email message this morning.
Included among the books donated, she wrote, are classics, such as Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle,” thrillers by authors such as Michael Crichton, and books on being a better parent, making the world a kinder place, meeting personal goals, learning everyday math, and studying the Bible.
|Experiment Station Road|
Priest said she paged through a donated book on two- and four-stroke engines before putting it in the box to be sent to the jail.
“One of the hallmarks of a good library is the range of choices so that everyone can find something they’re interested in or believe they should know more about,” she said.
Priest said she got the idea for the collection when she toured the jail with a group a few years ago and glanced at the limited number of titles on the jail’s book cart.
On April 1 of this year, the Oconee County Jail was housing 25 males and 4 female inmates, according to a report compiled for me by Oconee County Chief Deputy Lee Weems.
Of those 29 inmates, eight were 1-29 years of age, 13 were 30-39 years old, four were 40-49 years old, one was 50-59, and three were 60 or older.
They list a variety of religions, with most being Christians.
They were being held for a range of crimes, including probation violation, rape, shoplifting, possession of methamphetamine, possession and use of drug related objects, loitering and prowling.
Over the first three months of the year, the jail averaged 36.7 inmates per day.
In all of 2014, the average count was 41.4 inmates.
Averages, by year, were 2008 (64.8), 2009 (51.4), 2010 (53.7), 2011 (50.7), 2012 (50.3), and 2013 (58.8).
In years past, the Oconee County jail housed the overflow from surrounding counties, according to Weems, but these numbers have declined with Jackson and Barrow counties opening new jails and Clarke County opening an addition to its jail.
Oconee County does have a contract with Gwinnett County to house sentenced inmates waiting to go to state prison, Weems said, but the transfer times have been greatly reduced due to the adoption of electronic submission of the paperwork.
Book Drive Launch
Oconee Democrats launched its book drive with a news release on March 22.
Amber Shelnutt, inmate services coordinator at the Oconee County jail, is quoted in the news release as saying that “Some of the inmates have nothing. They may be homeless. Having a choice in what they read can give them a sense of independence.”
Inmates can check out one religious or recovery book (such as those on overcoming narcotics or alcohol addiction) and two other books once a week, according to the release.
Priest told me in her email today that Oconee Democrats is still in need of a book cart and book shelves for donation to the jail.
“And keep the books coming!” she wrote.
If people have a large number of books and want to drop them off directly at the jail, Officer Shelnutt wants to be notified beforehand so that she is available to receive them. She can be contacted at (706) 769-3930.
More information on the book collection can be provided by Priest at firstname.lastname@example.org.