STU Criminology Professor and Alumna lead Social Justice Book Drive to connect STUdents with Incarcerated Young Adults

Smiling students standing in front of a pile of books, which were collected as part of a social justice book drive.

STUdents in Dr. Susan Reid’s Youth Justice classes are using books to create connections with incarcerated youth. 


The two Criminology classes collected 250 books for federally incarcerated young women, who are approximately the same age as the STUdents, at the Nova Institute in Truro, Nova Scotia. This social justice initiative provided an opportunity to put in-class learning to work and make a difference in the lives of vulnerable young women.  


“Being part of Dr. Reid’s class has helped me get my foot in the door in this field and opened my perspective. It’s taught me the importance of giving back to the community and reflecting on the things we normally take for granted,” said Heaven Youden, a fourth-year student from Woodstock.  


 The Book Drive was spearheaded by Criminology professor and Director of the Centre for Research with Vulnerable Women and Youth (CRVWY), Dr. Susan Reid in collaboration with STU alumna Meghan MacEachern, BA ‘16, Assistant Director of CRVWY.   


Three students giving a presentation in class

“The goal of this initiative was to provide students with an opportunity to experience peer connection with a vulnerable young adult through books, literature, and discussions," said MacEachern. 


“What's wonderful about this experience is students have had a brief opportunity to engage with a peer that they don’t know and perhaps will never meet in a way that is meaningful.”  


Dr. Reid asked STUdents in her classes to think critically about how their own lives would be altered as they made a connection with peers of the same age who are incarcerated.  


“What does it mean to be a young woman that can't be on the Internet, that can't have access to her phone, or any of the things that students are able to do every day? What sorts of implications are there for a successful reintegration back into our communities without any social connection,” said Dr. Reid. 


“This book drive was an opportunity for students to see the human side of our most marginalized and criminalized populations.”   


Inspiration for the initiative  

Through their work with CRVWY, Dr. Reid and MacEachern have been working with federally sentenced women at the Nova Institute on a project funded by Women and Gender Equality Canada. After meeting with the women of Nova, they were surprised to find several “youth” serving a sentence in an adult penitentiary.  Emerging adults require opportunities that are different than those designed for adults, and those at Nova were missing out on social connections with same-age peers—a gap Dr. Reid knew STUdents could help fill.

Criminology Professor and three collaborators/supporters smiling and standing in classroom next to books to donate for social justice book drive


On top of books, STUdents also provided discussion questions, book prompts and additional items like colouring sheets and word searches to encourage participation from women at varying literacy levels. 


The students have gone above and beyond to make the books more inclusive, and I am blown away by their thoughtfulness and generosity,” said Dr. Reid. 


The books were received by Tammy MacEachern, Social Program Officer, Correctional Services of Canada.  In celebration of the book drive, Tammy also provided the classes with an inside glimpse of the role of social programs, peer mentorship and volunteers in assisting the women at Nova on their journey back to community. 


The [offender] population will be surprised at the generosity of STU because books are a wonderful opportunity to have a break, an escape, and a chance to enrich their lives through a positive leisure-based activity,” said Tammy. 


“To have STUdents think of them as people worthy of their peer support and the investment of time, is going to have a huge impact on the women at Nova.”