“Reading 4 Reform” gives back to inmates

Tim Flakoll | Photo Courtesy
Donations have come from 11 states and the Library of Congress.

NDSU faculty member organizes book drive for the inmates of Cass county jail

North Dakota State University is currently holding a book drive for inmates of the Cass County and the Clay County jails. The Cass County Jail has had a library open since 2002. The Clay County jail library was recently founded. Tim Flakoll is the founder and organizer of the book drive. Flakoll is the Director of Operations for NDSU Downtown. He oversees the operations of Renaissance Hall, Klai Hall and Richard H. Barry Hall.

“It’s about improving people one page at a time,” Flakoll said. “The question is do you want to make them better when they come out then when they came in? My answer is, whole-heartedly, yes.”

According to a study by the RAND Corporation access to educational tools reduced the likelihood of reoffending by 43 percent. Also, inmates involved in education programs were 13 percent more likely to obtain employment after release.

“Words and books have a transformational power unlike virtually anything,” Flakoll said. “You can really change your life with what you read.”

Flakoll says his favorite part of organizing the book drive is being able to help a group in the community that is truly in need.

“I’m guessing I’ll never hear back from anybody and that’s okay,” Flakoll said. “I’m not doing this to hear back from them. I’m doing it to help them. I hope that the men and women understand that people believe in them.”

Flakoll also believes that the stigma around inmates is changing. He attributes this to better programs for inmates. Prisons and jails are looking for alternative ways to rehabilitate inmates to reduce costs. According to the Hamilton Project, North Dakota spends $39,271 per inmate. According to RAND Cooperation, investing in education programs can save upwards of $8,700 to $9,700 per inmate.

“It’s not like turning on a light switch, it does take time,” Flakoll said. “People want to believe in the good in people. These people are still someone’s kid, brother, sister, mother or father.”

The book drive has received over 1,200 books so far. Donations have come from 11 states across the country including Iowa, Arkansas, Virginia, California, Arizona, Texas, Washington D.C., Tennessee, Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota.

“It has been shocking and I’m just thrilled by how people have embraced this project and the meaning behind it,” Flakoll said. “We all want to be better than we were yesterday. This is a way a segment of our population that is sometimes forgotten can do that.”

“Improving people’s lives through education is the staple of my life,”

Tim Flakoll, Director of Operations for NDSU Downtown

According to Flakoll, the book drive is projected to collect over 2,000 books.

“I didn’t know if we were going to get 20 books or 120 books,” Flakoll said. “I figured if nothing else if a couple of my friends and family did it we would at least have something. But we’re on pace to get 2,000 or above.”

Some donations have even come from the Library of Congress. In coordination with Flakoll, North Dakota Congressman Kelly Armstrong donated 22 books from the library.

“I received a call from Congressman Armstrong less than an hour after I posted on Facebook,” Flakoll said. “He said we wanted to help out and there were things he wanted to do.”

Students wanting to donate can bring books to Suite 110 of Renaissance Hall from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays. Students can donate books from all genres. However, the most requested book topics are drug and alcohol recovery, dictionaries, popular fiction, sports, science fiction, computer books, self-help, art, history, mysteries, westerns, poetry, spirituality and religion and books about starting and running a business. All books must be soft-cover to donate. Hard-cover books will not be accepted. The book drive will continue until March 15.

“Improving people’s lives through education is the staple of my life,” Flakoll said. “This is just another extension of that.”

Leave a Reply