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Criminal Justice

LA County Supes Vote To Explore How To Get More Books Into Jails

Ahmanise Sanati, a light-skinned woman with long black hair wearing a blue denim shirt, a green lanyard, and silver hoop earrings, holds up a copy of Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential in her left hand as she smiles at the camera. She's standing in front of her silver car, with brown bags and boxes of books visible from the back seat.
Former jail mental health clinician Ahmanise Sanati brought thousands of books into L.A. County jails for more than a decade while she worked there. She has restarted her effort from the outside.
(Emily Elena Dugdale/LAist)
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Earlier this month, we highlighted former jail health care worker Ahmanise Sanati’s efforts to get books behind bars. Now, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has passed a motion asking the Sheriff’s Department to report back on ways to make books available.

What the motion says

The motion was co-sponsored by Supervisors Lindsey Horvath and Kathryn Barger. It noted that in recent weeks, the Sheriff’s Department has begun to assess the jails for opportunities to install bookshelves and revive both its book donation programs and a pilot program to get reading tablets into cells.

The motion requests that the department report to the board in 90 days with:

  • An update on its efforts to install bookshelves and regularly schedule mobile book carts to deliver books throughout the jail facilities.
  • A proposal to reinstate the reading tablet pilot program.
  • An analysis of whether the department can make information related to book donations available on its website.
  • "A report on what happened with Hunter’s Library that was established in 2016 at Men’s Central Jail, including an accounting of where the books that were donated to that library are located.”
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Before the board voted on the motion Tuesday, Barger said she hadn't been aware that Hunter's Library is no longer in operation. She said she was "disappointed but not surprised that the ... prior Sheriff [Alex Villanueva] decided I guess to remove it from the jails.”

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 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

This story was updated on Feb. 28, 2023 with the results of the board vote.

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