Inmates read for the blind with new recording studio

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POINT OF THE MOUNTAIN -- Many blind and disabled people have few options when it comes to reading their favorite books. A program at the Utah State Prison is changing that, in part, with this new state-of-the-art recording facility.

"Reading for the Blind" has become a program that allows some inmates at the Utah State Prison to give back to society. They help others who cannot read, and now they have a new building that will allow them to serve even more.

Selected inmates spend 8 to 10 hours a day, 5 days a week recording books and magazines for the blind.

Did you know ...
The average wage for an inmate is $0.45/hr. The State Library estimates the average salary for the same job on the streets is about $18.50/hr. -Utah Dept. of Corrections

For many of the inmates, it's a way they can do something good.

"It's a neat program. It's an opportunity for us to give back to the community," said inmate Bret Lindeman. "There (are) so many things negative about us in this place, we have a choice where we can follow a path that gives back."

The program was previously housed in a small room, with poor acoustics that made it difficult to record clearly. The new facility has state-of-the-art recording rooms and editing stations.

By the numbers ...
Reading for the blind
- Serves more than 70,000 patrons in 20 different states
- Saves the state approx. $52,000 per month in costs
- Has been in operation for 23 years
- Has 20 employees
- Selected inmates work 8-10 hours a day, 5 days a week

"You're allowed to work and you can tune out the environment around you for 8 to 10 hours a day and then you go back to life in prison," Lindeman said.

Inmates will be able to record and edit novels in about two weeks. People who benefit from the program came today to show their support and thanks. Jeff Smith was one of them. He's lost his sight, but not his love of reading.

"It's opened up the whole for me. To able to read a book in the audio format. I can get any local book I want through this program, and it's just been a tremendous blessing," Smith said.

Smith also said the chance to personally thank an inmate who records many of his favorites books was a benefit to both of them.

"Finally to get a chance to do that to meet one of these readers, it almost made me cry. I just felt like...what a blessing.

The new facility was funded 100 percent by donations, and the program is in partnership wit the Utah Department of Community and Culture.

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