Donate Books to People in Prison

Scrolling up and down Amazon wish lists for prisons is so frustrating. Not only are so many people imprisoned all across America, but they also don’t have basic items while they’re there. The long book wish lists show that even though people want to read in prison, their access to books is limited. It’s nice that imprisoned people can request books through different programs. The numbers on these lists (like “need 100, have 34”), however, show that their interest levels aren’t being matched. I wanted to collect a few of these lists here to call attention to these important, imprisoned readers, and provide options if you wanted to donate books to people in prison.

The Liberation Library is the first prison wish list I ever saw. This volunteer based group services imprisoned youth in Illinois. Their list includes a lot of Ashley & Jaquavis novels, Nayyirah Waheed’s poetry collection Salt, some Stephen King, and a lot of James Patterson books.

The Prison Book Program has been donating books to imprisoned readers since 1972. They’re located in Quincy, Massachusetts. Their list includes a number of how-to books, like ones on succeeding outside of prison, job-hunting guides, drawing, working out, auto repair, dealing with addiction, and crocheting. It also includes parenting rights books, crossword puzzles, dictionaries, and books on imprisonment (like Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow). Books like Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me and Chinelo Okparanta’s Under the Udala Tree are also on there.

The Brooklyn Defender Services is a group that provides affordable legal assistance to imprisoned people. In addition to a long list of clothing items that people need on Riker’s Island, they’ve also started a list for adolescent clients, which includes magazines and a Sister Souljah book.

Especially with all of the holiday shopping going on this time of year, I hope that the daily lives of imprisoned people get more conscious attention. Find more places to donate your used books here.

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Rachel Wagner: Rachel Wagner is a writer from New Jersey, currently living in Newark with her son. Her blog and more of her published writing can be found at rachel-wagner.com