Friday, April 23, 2010
Prison Outreach and Great Books.
“Of Balls and Chains: Great Books Discussion Program Fosters Free Thought In Prisons"
...When inmates are given food for thought, it’s a whole different ballgame, according to Peter Buttross, a Mississippi poet and philosopher who has been co-leading a Great Books discussion group at a local prison for five years. “In these prisons, you will find spirituality, religiosity, and devotion to intellectual and spiritual pursuits that dwarf what I have experienced in university life,” he explains over the phone. “There is an urgency there that I have never seen in graduate seminars. It’s a question of survival for them whether they understand these texts. That’s the meat for the week to sustain them,” he says.
Tom McNeely, a Natchez, Mississippi attorney, single-handedly started the prison
discussion club in the late nineties. He and Buttross hold their bi-monthly sessions at a Corrections Corporation of America facility in Woodville, Mississippi. Their program now has the substantial support of Dr. Daniel Born and his Great Books Foundation in Chicago, which supplies the reading material for the program, as well as training for volunteers in other prison groups.