Luis Correa, Avid Bookshop, on Indie Booksellers and Carceral Justice

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Luis Correa is the Operations Manager of Avid Bookshop in Athens, Georgia. Avid recently filed a legal complaint challenging the constitutionality of Gwinnett County Jail’s policies restricting who can send books to those incarcerated at the jail.

Why is it important for independent booksellers to be able to send books to prisons?

Independent booksellers curate our shelves to reflect our own tastes and our own expression. A lot of what we carry reflects our own views on progress and social issues. And so when someone comes in and asks for recommendations, we are constantly recommending things that we personally like ourselves, not just any cookie-cutter, rote recommendations. 

Incarcerated people deserve access to books. This has already been settled in the Supreme Court. And we as booksellers deserve the right to be able to express ourselves through our recommendations and provide these books to incarcerated people.

Why is it important for an independent bookstore like Avid to be able to send books to prisons, as opposed to prisoners only being able to get books from Amazon or from prison-approved tablets?

I believe it is in Georgia's best interest for a small business in Georgia to be able to be the ones handling the sale of books, because those small business dollars really go back into the communities where we're at — not like the big business dollars of, say, Amazon. Not only do they have an impersonal touch, but they also don't have the same kind of quality control that a small business like Avid does. Every day we're stressing over the ins and outs of the books that we receive. We're a much better match when it comes to following any kind of rules and regulations because of that concern about quality. And our money that we make at Avid is being dedicated and spread out to other small businesses, because that's how we run our business. Ultimately it does come back to people like me, working every day and trying to make a living.

How do restrictions on book access fit into the larger picture of carceral justice concerns?

Even though you yourself may not be incarcerated, know anyone who is incarcerated, or have ever experienced incarceration yourself, you're tied to a big money-making system of people who are incarcerated. You're tied to prison labor in many of the foods, many of the products you consume. These are people who are working for pennies, sub-minimum wage, who are not going to be able to make a good amount of money while working in the prisons and jails that they're incarcerated at or be able to be active and participatory community members when they do come out of those systems. We're all implicated by the carceral system. 

Luis Correa, thank you so much for joining me and speaking to me on behalf of Avid Bookshop, again, who has a legal complaint filed against the Gwinnett County Jail. Thank you so much for your time.

Thank you so much.