The UVa-Wise chapter of Alpha Phi Sigma, the national criminal justice honor society, completed a successful book drive for inmates at Wallens Ridge State Prison.

According to Professor Ashley Dickinson, the students in the honor society decided to collect books to stock in the library and in the prison’s many pods after they toured the facility several weeks ago.

Sydney Pack, co-president of the honor society, said she and co-president Codi Collins were looking for a philanthropic project for Alpha Si Sigma to complete. Dickinson suggested the book drive. However, the organizers worried that starting a book drive for state inmates would not be perceived as a positive activity. The group decided to move forward since its members are pursuing degrees and careers in law enforcement, the legal field and corrections.

“Our corrections class took a trip to Wallens Ridge last spring and got to see the library,” Pack said. “Reading is one of the things that the inmates can do. Some in prison are just learning to read. We decided it would be beneficial for the ones who will one day be released.”

The students began the book drive with a few stipulations mandated by the state prison system. The books could not be true crime novels and could not be ones that could be sold back to a bookstore.

The Lonesome Pine Regional Library donated over 20 boxes of books and the students gathered more than 500 for the prison library. The students packed two vehicles and Pack and Kelli Hess drove to Wallens Ridge.

“When we got there, we went into the area where visitors check in,” Pack said. “We actually saw the man who took us on the tour last spring. He got the librarian and we went to the prison warehouse. They had inmates come out and unload our cars.”

The students plan to organize another book drive in the future.

We talked to the prison librarian,” Pack said. “It is just always good to benefit the people who others don’t normally think of when it comes time to do something beneficial. I’m glad our organization was the one that could do that for them.”

Pack, a senior, was recently accepted to work with the U.S. Attorneys Office. The Staunton resident wants to earn a paralegal certificate once she graduates in the spring.