"gift to their cells": the project that delivers books to prisoners arrived in Uruguay

Just over 40 inmates from Unit 11 of the Fray Bentos prison (Río Negro) have in your hands from this Friday at least one book that they chose to take to their cells. he handed them over Anne Sicilyan Argentine journalist who has traveled the prisons in eight provinces of his country as a workshop facilitator, handing out books to prisoners so that they can take advantage of their time in prison.

“Like a gift to his cell,” he tells The Observer Sicilya graduate in Social Communication who was invited to give her talks to the inmates of the Río Negro departmental prison. It is the first time that his project – called “books in the pavilions” – crosses borders.

Sicily founded its first library in 2018. He was in unit 9 of the La Plata prison. Since then he began to tour the prison system, and has delivered 5,500 books ranging from novels, to essays, poetry and even philosophy.. Some new, some used, all donated.

This Friday was a different morning in the Cañitas prison, in Fray Bentos. Sicilia’s arrival had already been announced, so she was received with some homemade preparations cooked by the inmates themselves, and a breakfast that accompanied the hour and a half that he shared with the prisoners, some of them very young. The Argentine journalist brought with her about 120 books. “Two or three for each one,” she says.

“It was a very nice participation, questions arose. There was a very good reception, a back and forth, the boys told some personal experience. Nice call ”, he celebrates.

“All lung”

Ana Sicilia visits Fray Bentos prison, on May 20, 2020, with her project on books

Sicily values ​​the importance of books, remembering that in his childhood he did not have access to them. “He was studying in a private library,” he adds. This is how the love for literature arose and she learned to value texts.

Their first visit to a prison It was in 2017 to participate as a journalist in a talk to prisoners in La Plata. “A workshop facilitator from Buenos Aires invited me. I liked going to give a talk,” she recalls. She then she reoffended. And the following year she began to do workshops, and seek to install libraries, with donations that she received from those who saw her publications on social networks.

After forming 12 to 15 libraries, the project took a turn. It occurred to Sicily that the books did not have to be in a closed place between four walls in prisons but began handing them over inmates to be taken to their cell and a gift.

Sicilia leads the project alone although she is beginning to work with a foundation she called Ace. A) Yes “like the ace up my sleeve because books are an ace up my sleeve,” he saysfor situations experienced by people deprived of liberty.

"gift to their cells": the project that delivers books to prisoners arrived in Uruguay

Visit from Sicily to Unit 19 Cañitas, in Fray Bentos

To each place he went, in these four and a half years, he gave a talk and recounted part of his journey to get there. The trips are made on his own account, and the admissions to the centers as well, although he recognizes that some coordination with authorities has facilitated his work.

“It’s all lung,” he summarizes. “I never imagined that I would end up touring the entire country, or end up outside of Argentina. I would love to go back (to Uruguay) and continue touring other prisons”, she says, while remembering that his project grew through “word of mouth”, from “block to block”. That idea that “began for the love of books”, today bears fruit.

“Today I look back and never imagined I would be touring prisons, setting up libraries,” Sicilia describes proudly.

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