Launched Stateville Book Club for Prisoners in Joliet
CHICAGO – The John Howard Association of Illinois has been named the winner of the Illinois Humanities Council’s (IHC) 2008 Lawrence W. Towner Award for its program, The Stateville Book Club. Shaena Fazal is the director of the Association’s Long-Term Prisoner Policy Project. The award will be presented at the Association’s board meeting on March 12.
Every January, the IHC board selects a Towner awardee from a list of five grant applicants from the previous year, identified by IHC staff for its unconventional or unique methods in pursuit of ambitious goals.
Launched in 2005, The Stateville Book Club reaches prisoners at Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet who are serving long-term sentences and normally spending nearly 23 hours a day in their cells. Volunteer facilitators lead discussions and class readings of literature, short stories, plays, and essays. The book club meets twice a month for two and a half hours, from September through May. For many prisoners participating in The Stateville Book Club, it is the first time they have ever had the opportunity to read a book.
The Towner Award was created in 1985 by the Illinois Humanities Council Board of Directors in memory of a past chairman, Lawrence W. Towner. It was instituted to encourage "risk-taking in the development and execution of a public humanities project." It is more appropriate to recognize such qualities at the beginning of the project when the risk was undertaken, rather than after its completion.
Previous winners of the Towner Award include the DeKalb Public Library for its "Heroes At Your Local Library" teen reading group; Free Street for its youth theater project "Facing Extremism"; Center for Working Class Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago for the "Chicago Labor and Working-Class History Map"; and Video Machete for its "Global Youth Project."
For more information about Illinois Humanities Council programs, visit www.prairie.org or call 312.422.5580.
The Illinois Humanities Council is a nonprofit educational organization [501 (c) 3] dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.
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