Honor society donates books to correctional facility

June 1, 2012

Inmates at the Rockville Correctional Facility now have more reasons to read.

Indiana State University's Alpha Phi Sigma, a local chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, recently collected and donated more than 200 books to the low-to-medium security prison that houses all women.

The idea for the project came to Shannon Barton-Bellessa, associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at ISU, during a tour of the facility while teaching a special topics course on correctional institutions last summer.

"During the tour, Ms. Rita Steed, [the media relations director], noted the library facilities and the ongoing need for book donations," she said.

Barton-Bellessa brought the idea back to the APS officers and established a book drive for the 2011-12 school year.

"In reorganizing the chapter, the current President William Mackey, Vice President Jennifer Davis and Treasurer Heather Jeffries and I discussed the importance of using the organization as an avenue for community service," she said. "Both the officers and the membership agreed community service should be a guiding endeavor of the organization."

Though Alpha Phi Sigma has no formal relationship with the Rockville Correctional Facility, ISU students intern at the prison, and the facility offers tours for students.

In addition to stocking the library, a Hope Center parenting program at the prison will also benefit from the book donation. The program teaches the women about becoming better mothers and connecting with their children. One activity inmates participate in is filming themselves reading a children's book. The facility sends the DVD recording to the participants' children so they can watch the video and read with their mothers.

"The influence for this project is to continue a positive bond and relationship between the mother and child even though she is incarcerated," she said.

Barton-Bellessa acknowledges the importance of having ISU students engage the community in which they live.

"Despite the fact that all of our majors are required to complete an internship, even these opportunities do not show the students the value of giving back," she said. "By donating items and time to the various criminal justice related organizations, students begin to make the real connections that what we do as a system impacts ‘real' people."

The professor thinks the community service activity will lend itself to students better understanding the criminology and criminal justice fields.

"They begin to understand that individuals who have had encounters with the criminal justice are often not ‘bad' people. Rather, they are people who have made bad decisions with sometimes life altering consequences," Barton-Bellessa said. "Our students strive to be both the catchers and the keepers of illegal and illicit activity. By adding a human component to their educational experiences through community engagement, we can hopefully better prepare our students for the workforce and life in general."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/i-R3PnJwD/0/L/i-R3PnJwD-L.jpgIndiana State University Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice presentation of donated books by Alpha Phi Sigma (the National Criminal Justice Honor Society) and CRIM 416 Special Topics in Criminology: Correctional Institutions in Indiana. L to R: Rachel Tetidrick, Riley Clerget, Shannon Barton-Bellessa, Maggie Rumler, Rita Steed (Rockville media relations director), Jared Klug, William Mackey, Joshua Keyt, Mohammad Alsultan, Dominique Cudjoe, Kelvin Burrell, (front row) Garrick Dikos

Contact: Shannon Barton-Bellessa, associate professor, department of criminology and criminal justice, Indiana State University at 812-237-8332 or shannon.barton-bellessa@indstate.edu

Writer: Mallory Metheny, media relations assistant, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University at 812-237-3773