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Criminal Justice

‘Overwhelming In The Best Of Ways’ — A Big Response To Our Story On Books In Jail

Ahmanise Sanati pauses while loading books onto a rolling black cart to be brought into the jail. She is a light-skinned woman with long black hair, wearing a denim shirt, jeans, and a green lanyard. She's holding a brown paper bag full of books. In front of her are brown and white boxes and bags of books.
Ahmanise Sanati pauses to look at the growing pile of books during a dropoff in front of the downtown jail complex.
(Emily Elena Dugdale
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Earlier this month, we highlighted former jail health care worker Ahmanise Sanati’s efforts to get books into jail cells. Now, her DM’s are blowing up.

Many offers of help

Sanati said she’s received over 300 messages so far from people wanting to get involved. “It was inspiring, it was overwhelming in the best of ways,” she said. “It just showed me that so many people care about this issue.”

Offers have rolled in from, among others, a Girl Scout troop, retired librarians, and UCLA employees. Sanati said she also received powerful testimonials about the importance of books behind bars.

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“People were saying that they were formerly incarcerated, and this was what saved them, or they have a family member who was incarcerated and this was the only thing that kept their person alive,” she said.

The backstory

Sanati secured thousands of books for the jails while she worked there. But after she left her job last year, no one stepped in to keep the project going.

Research shows that many incarcerated people haven’t finished high school and can’t read very well. It also shows that access to books in jail helps build literacy and reduce recidivism.

How to get involved

If you’re interested in donating books or volunteering to help organize a book drive, you can reach out to Ahmanise Sanati on Instagram @ahmanise or email

Go deeper: People In LA Jails Need Books. She’s Making It Happen.

What questions do you have about criminal justice in Southern California? 
Emily Elena Dugdale covers smaller police departments around Southern California, school safety officers, jails and prisons, and juvenile justice issues. She also covers the LAPD and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department.

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