Inmates' love of snacks helps Md. school

July 12, 1997


Staff Writer

The Bible told Carroll Herbert that people should do all they can to help the needy of the world.

Herbert, an inmate at the Roxbury Correctional Institution south of Hagerstown, saw no reason why he should wait to be released from prison before he does his part.

That's why he and many other of the prison's 1,911 inmates spent the past nine months collecting coupons off Little Debbie snack food boxes. The inmates collected 13,632 coupons, which were redeemed to purchase a copier and athletic equipment for a Catholic grade school in East Baltimore.

"We could have gotten a lot more," insisted Herbert, who said he is being incarcerated because of driving-while-intoxicated convictions.

The program grew out of the prison's Catholic Bible study program. Herbert and other inmates talked about a program Little Debbie was sponsoring to raise money for schools, and they knew inmates ate a lot of Little Debbie snacks.


From there the inmates set up a collection box for the coupons to be turned in. Reginald Juste, an inmate working in the prison's recycling area, said he was able to pick through discarded boxes of Little Debbies to get more coupons.

"I feel it went pretty good," said Juste, who was convicted of attempted murder.

Helen Smith, a Hagerstown volunteer who leads the Bible study program, then took over the task of trimming, packaging and sending the coupons to Little Debbie in Georgia.

"I enjoyed it. I hope we will be able to do something else in the future," Smith said.

The inmates had high praise for Smith.

"They need more volunteers like her to come in," said Edward Hershman, who is serving life sentence for murder.

The school they selected to receive the equipment, St. Katherine of Sienna, is in a poor part of Baltimore and could use the help. Smith said.

Hershman said he would have liked to have done more. The inmates originally wanted to collect enough coupons to buy a computer, but came up short.

"Maybe next time," he said.

Nonetheless, the campaign is being applauded by prison officials.

"I think it helps the community to see that people who are incarcerated ... can help the community," said RCI Warden Joseph Sacchet.

Sister Dolores Chepiga, the Catholic chaplain for the state prison complex, said, "I think it's so good that they are able to reach out and help someone else."

But it could go even further, with many more people being helped, she added.

"There is so much potential here. If the public were only able to accept that, there are so many ways people convicted of crimes can help the community," she said.

The inmate organizers would like to see the program grow. Herbert pointed out that Little Debbies are popular throughout the state prison system, so similar programs could be started at other institutions.

"They're just throwing them away in the other institutions," he said.

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