Pensacola nonprofit gives Florida prisoners boost with books

Northwest Florida

PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — September is National Literacy Month and one Pensacola nonprofit has dedicated the last 21 years to promoting literacy and reducing recidivism in Florida prisons.

Open Books, located at 1040 North Guillemard St. in Pensacola, acts as a nonprofit bookstore where volunteers accept used book donations and sell them to fund books for Florida prisoners.

Scott Satterwhite, the founder of the Open Books Prison Book Project, says behind the barbed wire fences at Florida state prisons are inmates itching to get their hands on paperback novels to dictionaries.

“As a book lover myself, I cannot imagine being incarcerated and not having a book to read,” Satterwhite said. “So, what we like to think of is we’re giving people a lifeline to mentally escape while they’re still locked up and hopefully when they get out of prison they will continue to stay out of prison.”

Satterwhite said the nonprofit ships off about 21,000 books a year to prisoners. The most commonly requested books are dictionaries and Western novels, he said.

“Eventually most prisoners are going to leave prison and when they leave prison, what do you want them to leave with?” Satterwhite said. “More bitterness toward our society or do you want people to have an education?”

The nonprofit celebrated 20 years last year. It gets letters from prisoners weekly requesting books and will continue to fulfill them the best they can.

“By proving these few things, providing this book, providing this book, or any of these other books on the shelves over here — giving those books to somebody could be the difference between life or death for some people,” he said.

If you’d like to donate, you can drop off books at the Open Books bookstore.

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