Book Review | Almost Innocent


From searching to saved in America’s criminal justice system
by Shanti Brien, 2021,, ISBN-13:978-1-64543-203-6

Reviewed by Pam Hawkes, President, Claremont Forum Board of Directors

This book is an easy and fast read. The author, a criminal appeals attorney, shares her two decades of representing convicted criminals, most of them still serving their original sentence. Her clients have been granted an appellate hearing, which are many times based on their own self-researched, hand-written, multi-page writ of habeas corpus, a document used to bring a prisoner or other detainee before the court to determine if the person’s imprisonment or detention is lawful. Ms. Brien presents each of her selected cases as a short story, some ending well, most ending badly as so often, she reports, happens to prisoners who, she explains, wage an up-hill battle to ask the court to reduce or modify their sentence.

Some cases are just lost in a cluttered and complicated justice system, one which too often strives to put misjudged or mishandled cases behind them. She writes that she’s often asked at dinner parties, “Why waste your time and energy and why should the government waste so many resources on criminals in federal prisons and on death row having decent, if not comfortable, lives provided by the taxpayers.” She offers that instead of criminals wasting money by constantly appealing, perhaps the government is wasting taxpayers’ dollars by charging people with crimes and upholding convictions instead of admitting their mistakes.

For each vignette, she explains the background, original trial, and resulting sentence. Many of her clients had incompetent legal representation or overwhelmed legal defenders, or in some cases, the crime for which they were convicted, sometimes a “third strike”, is no longer a crime. She presents her journey as an appeals attorney dedicated to helping her clients while trying to balance family life, special needs children, and other stressor including traveling around the country in support of her husband’s career – a former NFL kicker.

What prompted her to write this book is a personal legal happenstance that puts her personal life and her husband’s real estate business in jeopardy, causing the reader to stay attentive to the time-to-time glimpses she reveals as she travels her own legal journey. She is also motivated to tell the story of a justice system full of inequities and challenges, one as motivated by dealing quickly with complicated cases as much as discovering the truth. She personalizes her clients with glimpses of their supportive families as well as their unfortunate personal circumstances.

In just 216 pages, Ms. Brien gives her readers much to think about.

Education and Incarceration

Words Uncaged logo


By Pam Hawkes, President of the Claremont Forum

Cal State Los Angeles is the home of WordsUncaged, a program organized and managed by faculty and students in the Department of Communication. The Los Angeles Times recently published an article about the program and Professor Bidhan Chandra Roy who developed the program after visiting the California State Prison in Lancaster while volunteering with Paws for Life, an outreach program that teaches inmates how to care for dogs. He began a writing therapy program at the prison and was inspired to help men there who yearned for education.

Later Prof. Roy was encouraged by Cal State administration to launch a B.A. program in communication for men who had earned an associate degree. In 2016, with funding from the non-profit Opportunity Institute and the Mellon Foundation, the program was selected by the Obama administration to receive Second Chance Pell Grant funding for incarcerated students.

I was intrigued by the story in the Times and reached out to Prof. Roy to ask if he would allow me to interview him for our newsletter THE READER to share his experiences and insight about helping those serving prison sentences. Below are excerpts from my interview with Prof. Roy.

THE READER – Professor Roy, we began the Prison Library Project (PLP) in 1985 with a few volunteers who collected books from people in the community. They read letters from prisoners, and responded, sometimes with a letter and sometimes with a book, using a corner of a building that housed our local bi-weekly community newspaper. Thirty-five years later, the Claremont Forum offers a Sunday farmers and artisans market, a used bookshop and gallery, and a variety of community events in addition to managing the PLP. What inspired you to organize such a program? Can you describe the evolution of WordsUncaged?

Prof. Roy – WordsUncaged was inspired by the men at Lancaster Prison, whom I first met as a board member of Karma Rescue when we started a prison dog program in 2013. I saw all these incredible human beings, who had been thrown away and forgotten by society and left to die in prison: articulate, thoughtful men, who had changed their lives and had a lot to offer the world; lights of transformation with a rare wisdom earned the hard way. At this time, I began a weekly writing workshop with them at the prison and this eventually became WordsUncaged. The goal was to create a platform for the public to experience these men as I did—via the only means we had available to us—their words and artistic voices. The foundational idea has always been that if we could help incarcerated men and women become visible and legible to people, then our current system of mass incarceration—based as it is on fear and invisibility—would become intolerable.

THE READER – How is the administration of WordsUncaged organized? Do you have a Board of Directors? A paid staff? Are students involved in WordsUncaged? How are their talents utilized?

Prof. Roy – We are not a traditional non-profit: we do not have an executive director or paid employees, although we do have a board of directors. We operate more as a collective that acts WITH incarcerated men and women, rather than for them. Our structure is horizontal, rather than vertical and students are a very big part of what we do. Students work as editors and collaborators with incarcerated artists and writers, exchanging ideas and feedback via written correspondence that I ferry back and forth. They also use social media to promote legislative change and help produce events and exhibits.

Perhaps even more important than all this, however, is that they provide supportive networks for our members when they get out of prison and help with re-entry through numerous small acts, like helping with technology, for example. Above all they are tremendous assets simply by being the wonderful, kind human beings they are. For example, one former student, Taylor, who first began working with WordsUncaged eight years ago as a student of mine, is driving up to LA this week to meet her old writer partner, Duncan. When Taylor was a student writing to Duncan and collaborating on poetry together for our fist WordsUncaged book, Duncan was a serving Life-Without-Parole sentence. Recently, however, he was granted a commutation by the Governor and is currently working with WordsUncaged and thriving on the outside. On hearing of his release, Taylor is driving to LA to meet Duncan — all these years after their collaboration in WordsUncaged.

These sorts of authentic, lasting relations are priceless and a real honor for me to watch unfold. Examples such as this are innumerable in WordsUncaged. No amount of data or recidivism statistics, that dominate re-entry discussions, can capture these sorts of human relationships, which I consider to be the heart of what we do at WordsUncaged.

THE READER – The Claremont Forum is no longer a few big-hearted individuals in a small space in the Courier Building. The PLP currently receives over 500 requests per months for reading materials, and we are currently sending three to four hundred books each month to incarcerated adults at absolutely no cost to them. Without the cash and book donations we receive from our supporters, we could not do what we do at this level. How is your project funded?

Prof. Roy – We are pretty much self-funded. We do a lot with very little money.

THE READER – The United States is not only the country with the highest incarceration rate worldwide, but it is also home to the largest number of prisoners. Roughly 2.12 million people were incarcerated in the U.S. in 2020. Do you sometime wonder if organizations such as the Prison Library Project and WordsUncaged are making a difference in these statistics? What message do you have for our supporters tremember men and women in prison who are hopeful about their future?

Prof. Roy – Mmmm….yes, I know… it can seem overwhelming, but often change is non-linear and we can’t always see how acts of resistance can change a system. All we can do is keep plugging away and work with others doing the same.

You are correct. In the US today, there are over 2 million people in prison. How we got here is a story told by Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Ava Duvernay’s 13. But how we get out of here is a lesser told story, because it has yet to be fully written. It is a story quietly being whispered in California prisons and on the streets of Los Angeles by incarcerated, and formerly incarcerated, men and women imagining themselves to be the solutions to the problems that they have been told they are the cause: gangs, drugs, violence, poverty. It is the story of how writing, art and dance can remake lives and restore communities through a collective reimagining of a world without prisons; It is a story that finds creativity, love and freedom in unexpected bodies, spaces, places, and practices, both in performance and the everyday.

THE READER – At the Claremont Forum we do not make judgements about how and why an individual ended up serving a prison sentence. We see a need and, although we always need and welcome the help of our community, it is such a small thing to send donated books to prisoners. Now that you have first-hand experience with men and women whose lives you may be changing, what are your words of encouragement for us and our volunteers?

Prof. Roy – Try to imagine the world through the eyes of a human being who is incarcerated. These small acts of kindness can let a person know that they are not forgotten and cared for. Don’t underestimate the effect this can have on a human being, who is cut off from the outside world

THE READER – Thank you very much for your time, Professor Roy, and thanks to you and your students for the work being done through WordsUncaged.

To learn more about WordsUncaged visit

Fall 2021 Reader

A Note from Our President

When the COVID crisis was at its worst, the Claremont Forum Board of Directors decided to temporarily pause our program of sending books to prisoners, because we could not be sure, based on news we were hearing and information from staff inside prisons, that books we processed were being received by the prisoners who requested them. We knew that some facilities were in lock down to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and many prisoners were being moved from facility to facility utilizing temporary housing.

Beginning early this summer, we restarted the program. We began responding to the dwindling letters and sending a limited number of books each week. We used just a few of our dedicated volunteers, making sure that we provided the most secure of working conditions, some volunteers working from home, and only having PLP volunteers in the bookshop during hours when the shop was closed.

We will continue the program on a limited basis until we feel the risks to our volunteers are behind us. Until then, we continue to need your donations of quality used books, and funds for purchasing new dictionaries, thesauruses, and almanacs.

We thank you for your past support and continued support.
Pam Hawkes, Claremont Forum Board President


Upcoming Events at the Bookshop

Sat, October 16 | 10 AM

On Saturday, October 16, the Claremont Forum will celebrate the Day of the Dead by offering a painting workshop with our October artist, Sandy Garcia, beginning at 10:00 AM. Adults are invited to join us at the Packing House for a lesson in true Mexican Folk Art and painting demonstrations as well as arts and crafts for all ages. All supplies will be provided. And all artwork created is for you to keep.

The cost is $40 per person. Please RSVP by October 8, to You can also purchase a ticket online here.

Sat., October 9 & Sat., October 30


The night begins with an entertaining cocktail hour of psychic readings where magician Clinton Combs reveals your life purpose. The night continues when poet Delores Abdella Combs hosts an open mic poetry session sharing her Soft Words poetry and inviting area poets to share and bare their souls.


Each month the Claremont Forum Bookshop/Gallery presents the work of a local artist. The artists are available to meet and talk about their work on the first Saturday of every month from 6 – 9 PM. Proceeds from the sale of their work exhibited in our Bookshop/Gallery are donated to the Prison Library Project.


Born in El Paso, Texas, and raised in East Los Angeles, exposed to Latino art and music inspired her to become passionate for colorful and simple works of art.

Sandy adds, “Living in Claremont, California has inspired me to pursue my love of art. I attempt different mediums, and painting is one of which I enjoy and hope to enhance with the assistance of fellow artist and support from family and friends.”

Sandy’s inspiration is to create paintings that live on, by various interpretations from the viewer’s eye and emotions. She is attracted to bright colors with expressions on faces and nature, being one of her passions. The other is the expression of these paintings to become beautiful things in one’s private surroundings.



November artist is weaver Jennifer Derry and her students’ woven pieces.
Opening Reception, Saturday, November 6 from 6 – 9 PM

December artist is J. Spanos, acrylic art.
Opening Reception, Saturday, December 4 from 6 – 9 PM


We are so grateful for all the great book donations we receive each week at the Claremont Forum! We are always looking for books in the following categories:

Philosophy, Arcana, Spanish, Architecture, Photography, African, African American, Asian, Indigenous, and Latinx history, as well as literary fiction and nonfiction published within the last two years.

Your donations make a huge difference!


Upcoming Market Events

We have a succulent workshop on October 17. Make a lovely fall centerpiece with pumpkins, gourds, and succulents.

We are inviting tamale vendors to the market this December. Pickup fresh, locally made tamales to survey your holiday events.

Find out more about these upcoming events, art exhibits, book sales and more by following us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. You can also join our newsletter. Find links and sign up at

Claremont Market Recipes


Do you have a favorite recipe to share? We are looking for your favorite farmers market recipes. Drop recipes off at the bookstall or email to

We will be sharing our favorites with you!

What’s in Season?

CITRUS: Winter is peak season for citrus fruit and Southern California. Find Navel Oranges, Mandarins, Grapefruit,Tangelos and more!

KALE: While kale is available year round, it is in its peak quality during the winter months. The cooler temperatures keep this superfood and leafy green sweet and not bitter.

Pick up citrus, kale, and an avocado to make this light, healthy, salad.

1 large bunch of kale, stemmed and chopped
2 large oranges, peel removed and segmented
1 large grapefruit, peel removed and segmented
1 large avocado, pit removed and sliced
1 (14 ounce) package extra-firm tofu
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon maple syrup
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Drain tofu and slice into cubes. Heat a large pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add the tofu to the pan and sprinkle with salt and pepper and lightly fry for three or four minutes. Flip tofu, add more seasoning and frying additional three minutes.

Massage the kale! Wash and dry kale and sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Massage the kale by grabbing a handful of it and giving it a quick squeeze. Continue doing this until kale leaves turn a slightly darker shade. Set aside and make the dressing.

Combine all the ingredients for the citrus dressing, adding more salt/pepper as needed. At the orange, grapefruit, avocado and tofu to the kale bowl, toss with the dressing until well combine. Enjoy!

Recipe recommended and adapted from Delish by market shopper A. Ghorbani

Troubling Changes in Personal Mail to Prisons

The following is taken from an August 2021 report in SLATE by Mia Armstrong.

Prisons are increasingly banning physical mail to the incarcerated, leaving adults behind bars with little more than a photocopy of the communication from their loved ones.

Studies and testimonials, such as the letters the Prison Library Project receives with book requests, will testify that regular correspondence with the outside world is crucial to the mental health of a person serving a sentence. It also may affect the successful reintegration upon his or her release.

Restricting traditional physical mail in favor of scanning and printing or electronically delivering letters can be alarming. The Florida Dept. of Corrections, for example, is considering a policy that would digitize mail forcing inmates to pay for printouts or to view their mail on a tablet or “kiosk” operated by a private company.

Under this new program, loved ones send mail to a facility in Florida, operated by the private company Smart Communications, which then scans and sends correspondence to facilities around the country. The Smart Communications’ MailGuard program launched in Pennsylvania prisons in 2018 now operates in more than 110 facilities in 25 states.

One justification for restricting physical mail is echoed across agencies that have implemented similar policies. Corrections officials report cases where paper has been allegedly sprayed with or soaked in drugs – synthetic drugs, opioids, cannabinoid – and led to staff illnesses. The Bureau of Prisons believes that scanning mail is successful in “reducing introduction of synthetic drugs via mail” and has reduced “opioid-associated inmate health problems and related assaultive behavior”.

Of course, stemming the flow of drugs and other contraband into prisons is crucial for everyone’s safety, but SLATE reports there are questions surrounding the evidence officials use to justify these blanket restrictions.

The challenges remain – there are two major problems within the American prison system, reliance on private contractors that exploit and price gouge prisoners and their families, and our prison system works hard to isolate incarcerated people from the outside world then acts surprised when those people have a hard time reintegrating after release. The cause is often associated with the losing battle incarcerated individuals fight against systemic forces of dehumanization.

Letters from Prisoners


. . . The Prison Library Project has been very helpful with the service they provide. Plenty of times they have provided me with useful self-help books. Like a dictionary to help with my spelling and help me learn more words. It was needed a lot because I write poetry & would like to write books. . . . when I’m able to get a job I’ll earn more money.
Kenneth M., Lamesa, TX

I want you to know how much your efforts help me. I’m in a place where it’s a struggle daily to keep my mind occupied . . . I enjoy getting so deep into a book that when I look up I’ve been hours in another world, another time, another reality. It’s those times that keep me sane in a place where sanity is in short supply.
Kevin M., Beaumont, TX

Thank you for the dictionary I received. It has helped me a lot. It improved my vocabulary & literacy skills. It inspired personal growth & redemption as in learned & reading spiritual books with big words & vocabulary I didn’t know . . . it allowed me to use prison time more productive . . . it has made a positive change in my life.
Vincent R., Coleman, FL

I cannot begin to tell you just how much books have helped me through the past few years . . . Books are not just an educational tool but also a psychological tool providing an escape from the reality of prison life . . . there are many of us who don’t have family or friends able to order books for us. Thankfully there are amazing organizations like the “Prison Library Project” to help provide books to us . . .
Jonathan E., Beaumont, TX



A simple dictionary makes all the difference.
A dictionary is the most requested book that we receive at the Prison Library Project.

Each week we receive mail asking us to send a dictionary. Inmates completing their high school diploma, learning English, or taking part in a vocational program rely on a dictionary to help them succeed.



The Second: Race and Guns in a Fatally Unequal America, 2021, by Carol Anderson

Reviewed by Merrill Ring, Claremont Forum Board Member

One of the stories about the existence and nature of the Second Amendment is that, since the Founders were opposed to a standing army and rejected Constitutional provisions for one, they fell back on the idea of having citizen militias perform any necessary military functions in the new country. To perform those functions, the Founders needed to make it clear that those militias needed weapons. Given the financial arrangements of the day, that meant that individuals who joined the militias must have their own weapons. Hence the 2ndAmendment.

Today we continue to think of the citizen farmers taking on the Redcoats at Lexington and Concord. However, what Carol Anderson does is to cause us to rethink those notions: was providing a surrogate army the only reason that the 2nd Amendment exists? Does the Lexington-Concord picture of what the militias were expected to do accurately represent what in fact they were? Her book provides a No answer to both questions.

If you look at the debates about the Constitution among the Founders, what is dominant is not the question of what to do in the absence of a standing army. Rather, what the debates were all about is the need to have armed militias to suppress slave revolts and to capture escaped slaves. Here our heroic picture of Patrick Henry (‘Give me liberty or give me death’) is altered: he was the main spokesman for making sure that the maintenance of slavery was protected by arming militias – the Constitution would not have been achieved if he, as the leader of the pro-slavery caucus, had not been satisfied by an amendment allowing armed militias.

If you look, as Anderson does, at what the militias of the day actually did rather than see them through the picture of the Lexington-Concord story, it is clear that they existed as protection against Haitian-type insurrections (a great fear of the slave owners) and that their use was to protect the institution of slave ownership by hunting down those who escaped from their condition.

The bulk of Anderson’s book is taken up with tracing how the 2nd Amendment was used again and again through American history to prohibit Blacks from owning guns. The amendment does not enshrine the right of all citizens to own a weapon (as the Supreme Court thinks) but to give a certain class of Americans the right to own weapons (whether they belong to a militia or not) by denying the right of self-defense to outsiders (“niggers, coolies and Indians” is the phrase used.)

Carol Anderson is the Charles Howard Candler professor of African American Studies at Emory University

Inequality in the U.S. Justice System

From The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

The Brennan Center’s Justice Program seeks to secure our nation’s promise of “equal justice for all” by creating a rational, effective, and fair justice system. Its priority focus is to reduce mass incarceration while keeping down crime. The program melds law, policy, and economics to produce new empirical analyses and innovative policy solutions to advance this critical goal.

America’s criminal justice system is in crisis. It is both inequitable, placing a disproportionate burden on communities of color, and extremely expensive, costing $270 billion a year.

What’s more, our current approach is not necessary to protect public safety. Research conclusively shows that high levels of imprisonment are simply not necessary to protect communities. The Brennan Center has found that around 40 percent of America’s prison population is incarcerated with little public safety justification — in other words, they are behind bars unnecessarily.

Understandably, voters across the political spectrum have lost faith in the fair administration of justice, and the urgency of criminal justice reform continues to be a rare point of bipartisan agreement. Despite this voter consensus — and with some notable exceptions — policymakers generally have been slow to respond.

The Claremont Forum Summer Reader

Farmers & Artisans Market News

The Value of Farmers Markets to Community

The Claremont Sunday Farmers and Artisans Market is brought to you by The Claremont Forum. We understand the importance of having a weekly market where local farmers can offer fresh, organic foods to our community.

Access to fresh fruits and vegetables, breads, honey, and seafood is a huge contributing factor when it comes to community health and wellbeing. Here is why . . .

  • Eating locally. In Southern California, the average piece of produce stays in transit for five days, traveling up to 6,000 miles from countries such as Mexico and Chile. Produce then sits on store shelves for up to four days before being purchased.
  • Greater food transparency. Buying locally from smaller vendors gives the consumer the opportunity to ask questions and gain understanding of how food is grown and harvested.
  • Fresher food. Let’s be honest. If you’ve never had a tomato fresh off the vine, then you’ve never truly “tasted” a tomato.
  • Social interaction. Surveys of Los Angeles County farmers market shoppers show that 55% feel that the market increases connection to their community.
  • Supporting our local economy. Farmers markets are the perfect opportunity to vote with your dollars. Chances are the money for fruits and vegetables, packaged foods, and crafts purchased at a local farmers market goes back into small, local business instead of large corporations.
  • Farmers Markets Promote Sustainability. Our farmer/vendors come from up and down the Southern California coast. They are farmers who understand sustainability and most take it to the next step. Farmers engage in sustainable farming practices to produce healthy food to sustain the local community, who in turn provide the money necessary to sustain the farmers. Farmers who choose to use sustainable practices face economic and environment challenges. Farmers markets offer small and mid-sized farmers a low-barrier entry point to develop and thrive. Farmers selling at markets minimize the amount of waste and pollution they create. Using certified organic practices reduces the amount of synthetic pesticides and chemicals that pollute our soil and water. Many are also adopting other low-impact practices, such as on-site composting, that help mitigate climate change and other environmental concerns.

Thank you for shopping at our Sunday Farmers and Artisans Market. We all must play a role in offsetting the impacts of climate change. Next time you visit our farmers market, thank our local farmers for the role they play in our health, the health of our community, and the health of our planet.

The LA County Health Department is currently working to have a mobile vaccine clinic at the farmers market. We will keep you updated as we get more information.

Farmers & Artisans Market News

Please remember that all unvaccinated guests are required to wear a mask. Thank you for your cooperation!

Dates for Upcoming $1 Book Sales
Please join us on the following dates for our scheduled $1 book sales. The turnout for our “Pop-Up” $1 Book Sales has been fabulous, so keep your eyes peeled for a surprise pop-up sale each month. (Hint: follow us on Facebook or Instagram and never miss a book sale!)

July 23-25
August 27-29
September 24-26

Artist Receptions Are Back!

 Beginning July 3, we will return to our traditional artist’s opening receptions at the Claremont Packing House in the Forum Bookshop/Gallery as part of the City’s monthly First Saturday Art Walk. Please join us to meet the artist, view their work, and learn more about them and their techniques. Art receptions are the First Saturday of each month from 6 – 9 PM.
Bly Cannon was born in Los Angeles and earned a BA in Studio Art from Scripps College in 1981. After many years of being away from practicing art, she picked it up again in 2017, and credits the classes and teachers at Chaffey College with supporting her transition back. She lives in Upland.

Handcrafted Mysteries with Greg Van Holsbeck will return to The Claremont Forum on Thursday, September 2, 2021!

Board Member Publishes Latest Book on Leadership

Ron Riggio, the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College, joined the Forum board of directors in 2018. He has written, co-written, and edited several books on Leadership and Organizational Psychology. His latest is Daily Leadership Development, 365 Steps to Becoming a Better Leader. This book explains leadership development as well as the practice of leadership with daily suggestions on how to improve if you are an experienced leader or how to polish your skills if you aspire to become one. Find out more at

AmazonSmile is an easy way to donate.

Thank you to all our supporters who continue to contribute through your AmazonSmile purchases.
In Q-1 2021 you contributed $78.42 to The Claremont Forum. Please help us increase this cash donation for next quarter! If you have not yet designated The Claremont Forum as your AmazonSmile selected charity, you can do so by visiting or by using the link below.

Prison Library Project News

BOOK REVIEW |By Margaret Baker Davis, PLP Volunteer

My Time Will Come
A Memoir of Crime, Punishment Hope, and Redemption by Ian Manuel
In 1991 Ian Manuel was sentenced to life without parole for a non-homicidal crime. He was 13 years old when he shot a woman during a botched mugging attempt, and 14 when he was sentenced. The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) won Manuel’s release after 26 years in prison, 18 of them in solitary confinement.
 Ian Manuel writes a remarkable testimony of growing up homeless in Tampa, Florida, his young life riddled with poverty, violence, drug abuse and a severely dysfunctional family. Charged as an adult when he was 14, Manuel endured prison for two-thirds of his life. The woman he shot when he was a young teenager forgave him and became an advocate, joining EJI in helping him gain his freedom.
The book describes Manuel’s struggle toward hope and redemption. Along the way he discovered poetry, and the book is laced with examples of his tender writing. With a poignant forward written by Bryan Stevenson, director of EJI, this is a powerful story. 

Recent thank you letter to the Prison Library Project
April 17, 2021

“The things that you do mean more than you could ever know. It is like Christmas every time an inmate receives a package. These actions warm otherwise cold hearts, can change a bad day into a good day, and even save lives. Books have been beneficial during this enhanced quarantine schedule of only getting out of our cells for 20 minutes a day.

Thank you so much for your support!”

Cory | Inmate | Pennsylvania

The Claremont Forum Reader

The Claremont Forum Reader

Sunday Market Update

Our popular market is held every Sunday from 8:00 AM – 1:00 PM on Harvard Ave between First St & Bonita Ave in the Claremont Village. We offer certified organic produce, a variety of gourmet specialty foods, arts, crafts and jewelry from local area vendors, flowers, plants, farm fresh eggs and more!
Be sure to drop by our weekly bookstall at the market and browse our latest books. Talk to our staff and learn more about the Prison Library Project or sign up for our newsletter.

Artisans Market

The Artisans are back at the Sunday Market. Please stop by and say “HELLO”. Follow our Facebook page for weekly updates and previews of upcoming artists.

Claremont Kiwanis, Key Club and Market Volunteers

The Claremont Forum would like to thank the Claremont Kiwanis for generously volunteering every Sunday to help keep the market running smoothly and in compliance with COVID-19 regulations. We are truly grateful to all our fabulous volunteers who have helped to get the market reopened!
New Board Members
Four new members have recently
joined the Board of Directors:
Merrill Ring
Christina Frausto
Rachel McDonnel
Debra Olson

Forum Bookshop News

Expanded Days & New Store Hours
The Bookshop in the Packing House is now open Thursdays & Sundays 12-7 PM and Fridays & Saturdays 12-9 PM

Dates for upcoming $1 Book Sales

Our one dollar book sales return! All paperbacks and hardcovers are just one dollar (excludes books in our featured collection).
  • April 23 – 25
  • May 21-23
  • June 25 – 27

The Gallery Re-opens June 1

We are so very pleased to announce that beginning in June, we will once again be exhibiting the work of local artists. Although we are not yet able to schedule an artist opening reception, because of COVID restrictions, when you patronize the Bookshop (in the Packing House) you can enjoy viewing our “ART WALL” and learn more about the artist.
All artwork will be offered for sale. As always, part of the proceeds for art sales supports the Prison Library Project.

Donation of First Edition Children’s Books

A collector’s delight! The WWII era Augustus Series, by Le Grand Henderson, was published by Bobbs-Merrill Company, aimed at adventurous boys.
We have specially priced this collection, eight first editions and two circa 1939. View the collection in our specially priced books showcase. The books themselves are in very good condition, with well worn dust jackets, and the owners name, written in ink, on the endpaper.
Amazon Smile
When you shop at, you can easily contribute to our programs by naming The Claremont Forum as your selected charity. Thanks to our AmazonSmile’s friends, we received $1,261 since January, 2021. Please help us increase our Smile contributions for the second quarter. Click the link (below) or visit for more information. And THANK YOU if you are already a contributor.

The Claremont Forum Receives a $20,000 Gift

In late March, a long-time donor who wishes to remain anonymous contributed $20,000 to the Forum. This gift comes at a time when our need for donations is crucial because of a year of challenges for the Forum and our programs, such as the Prison Library Project. These unexpected funds will help us recover some of our losses due to the COVID crisis.
Your donations are welcome and your investment in our programs will help us to fulfill our mission at a challenging time. Thank you to all of our donors, large and small. We, as always, appreciate your help.

Prison Library Project news

The Ever-Growing Challenges of Getting Books into Prisons
The Claremont Forum continues to receive requests from prisoners, although at somewhat lower numbers from one year ago. However, in April 2020, we decided to temporarily discontinue sending books to prisons during the COVID crisis, and although we have plenty of donated books in our used bookstore, we have put the PLP on hold until we can be confident that the books we send and ship will find their way to the prisoner who made the request.
We hope to re-start the PLP operations sometime this spring (2021). Each month at our Board meetings we tackle the problems and challenges through dialogue and evaluation of updated information. We are eager to restart this important program to which we are so committed, and we encourage your thoughts and any information you may have that could help us with this decision.
Through the U.S., there are about three dozen programs working to establish prison libraries and get books to incarcerated populations. Most rely on donations and volunteers and prison systems often all have varying and often-changing rules. Some schedules show that prisoners, at some institutions, are given only 30 minutes per month to visit the prison library.
Under the current COVID crisis, the situation has grown painful. The Equal Justice Initiative writes, “incarcerated people are infected by the Coronavirus at a rate more than 5 times higher than the nation’s overall rate . . . This has meant the closure of prison libraries all across the U.S. The number of books prisoners could keep in their cell was already limited, and now their access to libraries has been cut off.”
*Book Riot is the largest independent editorial book site in North America, and home to a host of media, from podcasts to newsletters to original content, all designed around diverse readers and across all genres.