Inmate Ministry begins prisoner reading program

HERALD STAFF REPORTOctober 12, 2013 

Chief Bernadette DiPino, right, and Capt. Lucius Bonner present a $1,500 check to Brenda Zofrea, a volunteer with the Inmate Ministry Foundation. PHOTO PROVIDED


SARASOTA -- The Sarasota Police Department has given the Inmate Ministry Foundation a check for $1,500.

Chief Bernadette DiPino and Capt. Lucius Bonner presented the check to Brenda Zofrea, a volunteer with the Inmate Ministry Foundation.

The funds will be used to provide a free copy of the book, "Let's B Safe," to the children of incarcerated parents in the Sarasota County jail.

The Inmate Ministry Foundation's Read to Me Program was founded earlier this year by Dave and Bobbi Norris and is believed to be the first program in Florida to promote literacy in conjunction with local libraries.

Zofrea, author of Let's B Safe, said "The Read To Me Program provides a much-needed community outreach initiative because 70 percent of inmates cannot read above a fourth-grade level and more than 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate. With these statistics, it's easy to see how illiteracy is generational and we're hoping that this program can help break the cycle of illiteracy with this demographic."

The Sarasota Police Department is looking forward to working with the Inmate Ministry Foundation, said Bonner.

"This is an outside-the-box approach to improving literacy and protecting our children," Bonner said. "This program involving the book, Let's B Safe, also helps children learn how to recognize sexual predators and how to respond in a safe manner."

The Inmate Ministry Foundation relies on donations to buy books for the inmates and volunteers help with the recordings at the jail. Over the next several weeks, inmates will be recording themselves reading to their child and children will come Nov. 16 to Selby Library to get a CD of their parent reading to them and a free copy of the book so they can read along with their parent and a library card.

SCAT will be provide bus tickets for the children and their guardians to get to the library. This program plans to be offered to inmates quarterly.

To donate, participate or volunteer, call Dave Norris at 941-704-2312 or e-mail DLNORRISBLA@AOL.COM.

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