Reading behind bars
Mohamed* is an inmate at Freetown Correctional Centre in Sierra Leone. For the past two years, he has been the librarian in charge of the centre’s library which is filled with books that supporters like you have helped to send.
Mohamed is an avid reader and believes books have the power to change people’s perspectives and their futures. He’s looking forward to making a difference in his community when he is released and in the meantime, he’s using his role as a librarian to help other inmates change their lives. Below, Mohamed tell’s us more.
“As the librarian, I enter all the books here and make sure that they are in the right shelves. I have novels, non fiction, fiction, children’s books. If the condition of a book is bad, I need to repair it. I also teach inmates how to use the computer and help them to read because many of them don’t know how to read.
When you read, you ease the tension, you ease the stress. You can transform yourself.”
It is important to have books in a prison] because one, it will help ease the stress. When you read, you ease the tension, you ease the stress. And two, some of us, we were learning something out there [outside prison] and then we come here, because of the sentence – five, ten years – it is a long period and we may forget what we learned if you don’t have books to continue. But if people can read then they will remember what they were taught, they catch up with society.
When inmates come and read I am happy because they are occupied. When you keep the mind busy, it stops you from thinking what you came in here for. So when you come to the library, you put your time and your mind to reading, and you go outside [leave prison] and at least you find something to do. Because you don’t go back to your old ways.
I love reading. Reading is one of my hobbies.
I love reading novels. I have read most of the novels here. The book I will never ever forget and that I won’t stop reading is Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom.
I read something today from Mandela, and he said “When you forgive, we reclaim the power to create. When we create a new relationship with the person who has injured us, we create a new story of ourselves. When you find the strength to forgive, you are no longer victims. You are survivors. Forgiveness is not a creative act, it is a liberating action.”
Sometimes, when we leave prison, we want to go and get revenge on the people who put us in here. But when you forgive somebody, you don’t think of doing bad to him. So others who come here [to the library], would have learned that when you go out there, don’t be the same again. Be a changed person. Let others learn good things from you.
I try hard to learn. Because I believe that tomorrow when I go out, I will have the chance to teach others. Because if you learn something, it will be good for you and for others because you pass on the message to another person.
When you are educated, you are educated for the whole nation, not just for yourself.
I am studying second year business management. When I go out [leave prison] I want to do something for the youth, for those who don’t have the privilege to have these opportunities [to learn]. So, I want to go there and create that opportunity for them to go to school and work. I am telling you for free, education is the key. Because when you are educated, you are educated for the whole nation, not just for yourself.
When you read, you can transform yourself.
When you read, you can transform yourself. Mandela took 27 years in prison. He didn’t have the knowledge that he was going to become the President. So for me, being here doesn’t mean that it is over for me.”
*Mohamed’s name has been changed.
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