Inside Books Turned Outside

For over four years, the Inside Books Project has run its free-books-to-prisoners service from the Center for Mexican American Cultural Arts building at 600 River. But on April 1, the city sent the all-volunteer nonprofit a 30-day notice to pack up and vacate its roomy, $100-per-month space. IBP members now face devoting much of their shoestring budget, culled from private donations and small grants, to paying rent.

"We're hoping somebody will give us their garage," said IBP volunteer Skot Odierno. "We need a lot of space, but we don't have much money." A few leads on new spaces have surfaced, Odierno says, including 701 Tillery -- the new home of former CMACA tenants Latino/Latina Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Organization (ALLGO). A central location is essential; most volunteers bike instead of drive.

The city's decision to terminate its lease agreement with the CMACA board, which had been in charge of managing the site, led to IBP's eviction. According to Jay Stone, financial manager of the Parks and Recreation Dept., the board failed to meet the terms of the lease. Furthermore, he said, the building "is not the most safe of sites for any organization to utilize." PARD will shut it down, and eventually it will be demolished. Staff has talked with Inside Books, and has given the organization until the end of May to vacate the building.

IBP spends most of its funds on postage for mailing books to inmates across Texas, which costs about $2 a pop. Each month, about 300 prisoners send requests for books, so the costs add up. Currently, IBP is about four months behind schedule in responding to prisoners. "We try to use as much money to mail books as fast as we can," says Odierno. For leads on available spaces, contact the Inside Books Project at 647-4803 or at

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