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Your Letter: Book availability to Wadena jail inmates

"There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." -- Joseph Brodsky

I have never written a letter to the editor of any newspaper before, but I felt compelled to direct awareness to this matter.

It has recently come to my attention that the availability of reading material in Wadena County Jail has shifted from adequate to nonexistent. It is my understanding that the library area was closed after someone abused the privilege by hiding contraband in the pages of some books.

While I understand the need to remedy the situation and put an end to the exploitation of this privilege, I don't believe removing the access of reading material is the answer. I am aware some people might think, "Well, they are in jail! They don't need or deserve such perks!"

However, in my opinion reading is beneficial to everyone and should be greatly encouraged. Reading provides the mind with nourishment, your biceps are not the only part of the body that need exercise. Having nothing to occupy your mind with exception of television isn't constructive and does not promote good mental health.

I believe reading makes people better problem solvers, better equips people to be more successful in life. In a place like county jail, where you find those that have made mistakes and poor decisions in life or have chosen a destructive path, positive mental stimulation should be promoted not removed. Letting a few people ruin an opportunity so beneficial for everyone is the wrong decision.

If the library area was too hard to regulate being open, then I understand it had to be closed. Is there really no other way? Taking inventory of the books that had been previously available and allowing inmates to request from a list could be one possible solution. This option would allow jailers to be sure that the books were not being misused, while still allowing inmates to enrich their minds. I have faith that if my suggestion is not feasible, someone more knowledgeable about how the jail system works could come up with a better alternative.

I firmly believe when a problem arises in the development of a good idea/system you should never "toss the baby out with the bath water." If the person who makes the decisions regarding such matters can't think of a reasonable solution to this dilemma that would protect the interests of all involved, maybe they should read a book.

Renae Roth


Editor's note: The PJ contacted the sheriff's office on this matter and learned the inmates are allowed an approved set of books: Minnesota State Statutes and the Bible.