La Verne author Peter Bennett presented Barbara Heavin, treasurer of of the Claremont Forum’s Prison Library Project, several copies of his new book, Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject, which he believes can help prisoners tear down the walls that have held back their success.
“When I heard from Barbara and other volunteers at the Prison Library Project that the two most requested kinds of books in prison are dictionaries and self-improvement books, I knew I had to donate copies of Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject to this unbelievable outreach program,” Bennett said.
“Life Lessons of a Harvard Reject,” he added, “introduces life-changing possibilities and perspectives that can help anyone find personal success, significance, and self-esteem, especially prisoners who have found themselves on the wrong side of the wall because of poor choices or unfortunate circumstances.”
Bennett noted somewhat ironically that prison often offers a quiet place for personal redemption and reflection, adding that St. Paul (c. AD 5 – c. AD 67) wrote half of the New Testament confined in prison cells not much bigger than a closet.
“There have been many, many other prisoners who have used reading and writing to change their lives,” Bennett said. “After Malcolm X, a former small-time hoodlum and burglar, turned to reading in prison he said, ‘… months passed without my even thinking about being imprisoned. In fact, up to then, I had never been so truly free in my life.’”
Every year, the Prison Library Project tries to respond to prisoners’ reading requests by sending more than 11,000 packages of books, audio books and magazines to more than 600 state and federal prisons and detention centers throughout the United States.
“Our prison population needs these books more than any other group of people in the world,” Bennett said. “While the United States has less than 5 percent of the world’s population, it houses more than a quarter of the world’s prisoners.”
Why does Bennett think his book can help?
“Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.’ Well, Life Lessons has lots of ideas gleaned from the best minds in history, from Socrates to Shakespeare to The Simpsons.”
Bennett said that he and his wife Colleen want to present books to every prison in California as their small contribution toward helping prisoners reach and realize their full potential.
“The Prison Library Project opened our minds to a great cause and stretched our thinking,” Bennett added. “There’s no way we can turn back now.”