Trying to locate Steven Raher can be tricky. A 25-year-old grad student studying non-profit management at Colorado College's School of Public Affairs, the Washington, D.C., native is hard to pin down, as he is usually running all over town maximizing his contributions to society. He splits his time between school, the Southern Colorado AIDS Project, the Gill Foundation and a project he began two years ago called Epimethian Press. Named for the Greek god of afterthought, the program is but one example of Raher's dedication to human rights and social justice.
What is Epimethian Press? We started with a books-for-prisoners project modeled after other groups in the country. We sent books to prisoners, and that's still our biggest program. Now we're starting a project called the Colorado Prisoner Reading and Education Project that focuses just within Colorado. It's more intensive. We're recruiting volunteer teachers to teach classes or workshops in prison, working with libraries to help them with equipment and materials, and also some public-education work.
Like what? The Department of Corrections has a system set up for volunteer teachers. At the end of this month, they're slated to release a report of all the existing classes, so we'll be able to get that and start classes in areas where there's a gap and not duplicate programs that are already there. It's just a matter of picking out what subjects are needed and helping our volunteers through the application process.
How do you distribute your books? We get letters from individual prisoners who say what they're interested in, and then we pick out some books from our collection and send them directly to that individual. Prison libraries I've talked to aren't interested in donations, because they have limited shelf space or because it's just too much of a hassle for them to deal with. Almost every thank-you note we get mentions that [the prisoner] has passed the books on, so they get shared by a lot of different people.
You must get killed on postage. How do you stay afloat? It's pretty much all from individuals. We just got our first grant at the end of '99. The books come from individuals and from bookstores and from book distributors. We definitely want to branch out into community funding sources and partnering with local groups like the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission and St. Mary's Cathedral, which does a lot of great social-justice work.
Are you trying to reform the prison system? On our resources right now, it's really just about education, which is a kind of reform in and of itself. Our long-term goal is to get college courses, which were cut in the early '90s, back in Colorado prisons.
Where do you want Epimethian Press to go from here? The one thing I'd do is to help reach other states. There really needs to be one or two or three groups in Texas, just working with Texas inmates. I'd like to expand my work in Colorado as far as getting more volunteers in the prisons, but we'll see about that. I guess it's like any social-justice work. You can only do it for so long before you come up against the need for public education.
To find out how to donate books or volunteer with Epimethian Press, call 475-8059 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.[p]
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