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Prisoner’s Express Bookpacking: Education is a Privilege

Wendy Zhuo

Between complaining about prelims and assignments and the yearning for spring break or summer to come, it is so easy to forget how blessed I am to have the opportunity to be on Cornell’s campus every day for the past four years, getting to learn something new from a plethora of sources- through my professor’s lectures, daily readings, or even a heated debate in the dining hall with my friends.

An easy way to revive this forgetfulness each week is through the biweekly Prisoner Express: Bookpacking events. Regretfully, I did not unearth this particular event until my last semester here, but I find that it is the perfect weekly service event if you are passionate about books, letter writing, and learning more about the US prison system. Each week, bookpacking offers an hour or two for me to reflect on why education is a privilege for some, when it really should be a right for all.

Every Thursday evening, as I meander into Anabel Taylor’s Durland Taylor’s Alternative LIbrary– which literally feels like an alternate universe, with its natural ambience of coziness and abundance of sofa chairs and– I go straight to a table and pick up a stack of books from the shelf that are just waiting for someone to flip through them. As I sift through the works– which range anywhere from art history to science fiction or religion–  my mind usually is beginning to start up my letter to the soon-to-be new owner of these books.

Before putting pen to paper, however, I read what the inmate has sent (usually scrawledge on the back of the page where they request for specific works and authors), and each time it honestly never ceases to amaze me how enthusiastic the inmates are for knowledge. Their excitement for learning is invigorating, and reminds me that anyone can strive to be a lifelong learner. If you are ever in the mood to check out new works, meet someone new through letters and need a reminder of why education is a privilege, I highly recommend Prisoner’s Express: Bookpacking for you!