Tremont residents create library for county jail

By The Itawamba County Times

TREMONT – Within the next couple of weeks, the Matthew Turner Memorial Library will be open to inmates in the Itawamba County Jail.
Tremont’s Diane Turner and her daughter-in-law Andie have collected about 500 books so far for the library’s shelves. They collected them in honor of Matthew Turner, who was Diane’s son and Andie’s husband.
Jail Administrator Mike Herman said inmates will be issued time to visit the small library and browse, check out books and return to their cells with them.
It’ll be a real boon for the jail, the administrator said.
“Reading will stimulate their minds and hopefully open some doors for them,” Herman said.
Itawamba County Sheriff Chris Dickinson agreed that providing inmates with something enjoyable and inherently educational like reading could act as a form of positive reinforcement.
“Of course, when you think of jail you know it’s a place for punishment,” Dickinson said. “But I’m of the mind that prisoners are people, too – human beings. If we can give someone a hand up, we’re going to do it. It can rehabilitate, and if we can rehabilitate people that are willing to take the right step forward, I think that it’s our job as law enforcement officers and citizens to try to help people.
“We realize that some day the jail doors will be open for them to leave,” he added. “But if we can open some doors for them while they are in jail, that’s obviously a plus.”

Making room
Herman said adding a small library to the jail has always been a priority, just not a realistic one due to cramped quarters.
“With the jail’s lack of space we really haven’t been able to have a library,” Herman explained. He said that changed with the installation of the county’s new 911 system. Along with the new equipment came a change in location for the emergency dispatch, which is now located in the same building as the Sheriff’s Department and Justice Court offices. Herman decided to put the extra space to good use.
Located in a room just past the jail’s check-in area, the new library is small, but already packed with books. They’re scattered across the floor now, or still stacked in boxes, but soon they will be organized on shelves by category. The process of organizing the books was given to the prisoners; it is, after all, their library. Diane Turner will act as librarian, primarily responsible for accruing new books.
Herman said Diane Turner had been donating various items to the jail in honor of her son, Matthew Turner, who died several years ago.
“She asked me what we needed for the jail … I told her there was one thing she could do: Get me books and start a library,” Herman said.
“Heck, the first day she had piles of books,” he added.
Diane Turner, an avid reader, said creating a library just seemed to be a natural fit. Touting the educational benefits of reading, she said she hopes the library will be able to better some of the inmates’ lives.
“In school, we really push our children to read,” Diane Turner, a school nurse, said. “If we’re going to push our kids to read we should do it for other people, too.”
In order to stock the library, she needs donations of paperback novels, nonfiction, education books … most anything really. Books must be paperback and magazines must be bound with glue, but otherwise she’s willing to accept just about anything.
“Please, donate anything,” she said. “We’ll go through all of it. If it’s something that’s not appropriate for the inmates we’ll donate it to the Itawamba County Library or Salvation Army. It will be put to good use somewhere.”
Books can be dropped off at the Itawamba County Jail or via personal pickup. Turner said to call her at (662) 231-9508 or Andie at (662) 397-1121 and they will pick up the donation.

Contact Adam Armour at (662) 862-3141 or adam.armour@journalinc.com.