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Books behind bars campaign gets support from unions

Westgate book drive: Anthony Bennett, front left, Glenn Fubler and Karen Bennett; Malcolm Kirkland, back left, Tulani Bulford, Anthony Wolffe and Chris Furbert (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Online learning for prisoners is the end goal for a campaign to help bring books to Westgate jail, it has been revealed.

The news came as a book donation drive announced last week was backed by trades unions.

Chris Furbert, the president of the Bermuda Industrial Union, said on Monday the BIU had agreed to donate educational books to the campaign.

Mr Furbert added: “Certainly I think the Westgate book drive is something well needed. The executive board had no hesitation in donating history books for the drive.”

The fundraiser for the prison library was launched by a volunteer group, the Empowerment Circle, which includes community activist Glenn Fubler in its ranks.

Anthony Wolffe, the general secretary of the Bermuda Union of Teachers, told the group: “I have to applaud you for the initiative you have taken.

“It’s very important that everybody has the opportunity to be literate. We also have to recognise Brother Fubler is a former president and organiser of the BUT.”

Mr Fubler appealed on the public to join in the “spirit of transformation” embodied by the late Wilfred “Mose” Allen, a Progressive Labour Party founding member and trade unionist.

He said the group, set up to build connections with prison inmates, hoped the book campaign could lead to electronic learning for inmates so they could improve their lives while behind bars.

Tulani Bulford, a fellow Empowerment Circle member and a volunteer at the prison, said the impetus for the organisation came from “working at Westgate and dealing at Westgate with a lot of young men that are incarcerated”.

He added many inmates were serving long sentences for offences such as murder or attempted murder.

Mr Bulford said: “It’s to help them realise that Bermuda has not forgotten about them.”

He added he was “looking to push through the Bermuda Government” to bring online learning to Westgate.

Mr Bulford said the Westgate library was “robust”, but that it needed to be enlarged.

He highlighted that some inmates had spent decades behind bars and that “you can imagine they could read every book in there”.

Mr Fubler said that Mr Bulford’s great uncle, Mac Rawlins, had been “one of Mose’s comrades back in the day” and thanked the unions for their support.

He added: “Their spirit of collaboration in helping to foster the transformation of those incarcerated is an expression of solidarity in the widest sense of the term, that we are all God’s children.”

Anthony Bennett, the grandson of Mr Allen, said his grandfather was devoted to education and “an avid supporter of equal rights”.

He credited his grandmother, Nell Allen, for her support of the family through the struggles of the 1960s and 70s. Mr Allen’s great-granddaughter, Karen Bennett, said Mr Allen’s life legacy seemed to be “multiplying through generations”.

She added: “I look forward to seeing this initiative continue to develop, and the impact it will have.”

The Empowerment Circle’s campaign asked people to donate by buying book vouchers at four stores.

Contributions can be made at the Bermuda Bookstore, the Bookmart at Brown & Co and the Bermuda Griot, all in Hamilton, as well as at Long Story Short in St George. The campaign has charitable status.

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Published March 03, 2022 at 7:41 am (Updated March 03, 2022 at 7:41 am)

Books behind bars campaign gets support from unions

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