Bridging the Gap: Book distribution center shares more than words with jobs for inmates


(Editor’s Note: Watch for Bridging the Gap stories each Monday night at 6.
We will focus on re-entry programs at the detention facility – the largest jail in East Tennessee and will talk with Knox County Sheriff’s Office employees who work directly with inmates to find out how the programs work and how our community can get involved. If your business is hiring former inmates and wants to be featured on our program, email Lori at

If you love to read, then chances are good that your favorite book came through the American Book Company in Jefferson City.

It distributes books to major retailers like Dollar General , CVS and Kroger to name a few, and it has started a new program providing jobs for certain inmates at the Knox County Detention Facility, a valuable resource with incentives helping to pave the way for a better future.

Every weekday morning, American Book Company buses in a select group of employees, all inmates from the Knox County Detention Center, ready to put in a full day’s work in a sprawling warehouse taking up a million square feet, housing 24 million books.

“We recieve overstocks, closeouts, overruns, we take and refurbish them and repurpose them to major retailers of the world at a discount price,” says American Book Company Operations Director Levi Duhon.

There is no shortage of work needed to get the books ready for the outside world.

“We always need help here in the warehouse,” Duhon says, “so, it’s great to have these guys.”

Every inmate in the program is a non-violent offender, serving time for not paying child support.

In most cases, addiction is behind their downward slide.

Inmate Justin Black says, “I’m now clean. I’m four years clean from drugs but yet child support is still far behind.”

Thanks to American Book Company, Black and others in the program work eight hours a day, earning minimum wage.

Half of their pay goes toward child support, the other half, to them, usually to pay toward their bond.

Inmates who are in the program don’t just work at the company until their jail sentence is up. They’re considered permanent employees, so once they’re released from jail, they have a job to come to.

Inmate Josh Lundy is serving five-and-a-half months so far, and continues to pay down the child support he owes for five children at $900 a month.
He says opioids have taken over his life.

“I’m not gonna lie to you, ” Lundy says. “I’m gonna do my best. It’s an every day battle. When you’re in jail, it’s not hard to not think about it but as soon as you walk out those doors, you think, ‘now I can go get high.'”

He’s hoping the structure of this job will help him stay on the right track for himself and for his kids, thanks to the company willing to open its doors and offer dozens of people a second chance.

As Levi Duhon says, “it’s giving them the opportunity for a fresh start.”

While we were there, Black says while grateful for a job, he was worried he wouldn’t have transportation to the warehouse because his home is in Knox County. Duhon offered him a job at another of American Book Club companies closer to his home.

Currently, American Book Company is looking to hire 200 workers. To apply, contact Wilma Bowlin at

(Photo: WATE)

More online

For information on American Book Company, click here

Links to other companies with American Distribution Services:

For the popular Chia pets/the Clapper/Clawbroom, click here

Fire and water mitigation company in Knoxville, click here

For barnwood paneling company, click here

For the online monthly book subscription club, click here

For the children’s activity and coloring book company, click here

For the retail book stores, click here

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