Pages vision

December 6th, 2008  |  Published in Uncategorized

A college student who is working with Pages as part of one of their classes asked me what I thought the organization’s long term vision was.  It was a good question, and this is what I responded with, though I feel like it’s just a starting point

> What is Pages long term vision?
> What type of social impact would you like to see Pages make(prisoner
> rights/awareness/literacy)?
Really, these are two parts to the same question, so I'll answer it as
such.  I think Pages' long term vision is a world where everyone has the
knowledge, perspective, and skills to live an interesting, dignified
life.  Pages' focus is on making sure that incarcerated and formerly
incarcerated people are included as part of everyone.

Like any social movement, community project, or nonprofit, I think that
our vision includes envisioning a day when our project doesn't need to
exist.  I will be the first to admit that the model of the prison book
project is not a particularly efficient way to get books to incarcerated
people.  Sadly, for many, it is the only way that they can get access to
the knowledge and perspective that they want, which is why our project
continues to do the work of sending free books to incarcerated people.
The aspect of the project that moves us toward a world where we are no
longer necessary is the volunteer experience of service and of reading
the letters from incarcerated people and, hopefully, complicating the
volunteer's perception of incarcerated people and incarceration.  

I want people who volunteer with us to be able to think and make decisions
more rationally when it comes to community safety, crime, incarceration and
incarcerated people.  I also do work with a local group called Decarcerate
Monroe County which is resisting jail expansion in this county.  In some
ways it addresses some of the same issues as Pages, but more fundamentally,
because it aims to make one government entity spend money on empowering
people instead of incarcerating them and finding solutions to keep people
out of jail.  However, in doing this organizing, attending county meetings,
and talking with people who have conflicting ideas, it makes me appreciate
Pages because I feel like people who volunteer here get a perspective that
helps them think beyond the cultural stereotypes about crime,
incarceration, and the people affected by incarceration.  At Pages, we're
not trying to portray every incarcerated person as an innocent victim of
the system. Instead, through their letters, we're letting incarcerated
people speak for themselves in the hopes that those reading the letters
will at least appreciate them as an individual.  Ultimately, I hope the
experience of volunteering with Pages will make people realize that
incarceration in this country, as it stands now, is not working very well
for anyone - whether it's the incarcerated or the community at large. 
Hopefully people will keep this perspective in mind when they are voting,
working, and involved in their community.