Prisoners Literature Project

About Us

 

Who are we?

The Prisoners Literature Project is an all-volunteer, non-profit group that sends free books directly to prisoners who request them from throughout the United States.  Working almost continuously for thirty years, our U.S. prison books program has gotten (literally) tons of books into the American prison system, while staying overwhelmingly ‘grassroots’ – no full-time employees, no overhead eating up your donations.

Our many volunteers for sending books to prisoners include radical librarians, soccer coaches, anarchists, old folks, teens, yoga devotees, LGBTQ activists, ex-prisoners, and booklovers — all united in the belief that everyone has the right to read. (Here’s a video from 2012 showing off what we do.)

PLP is run entirely by volunteers (please volunteer now!) and funded entirely by donations (we really need your donations!).  All funds go to pay for postage, mailing supplies, rent, & books specially requested by priosoners, including dictionaries (our number one request).  Our project started in the back room of Bound Together Books, an anarchist bookstore on San Francisco’s Haight Street. 

Now working out of Berkeley’s Grassroots House (our 501 (c)3 sponsor), we appreciate continuing support from Bound Together Books, Moe’s Books, BookMooch, the Resist Foundation, and many generous folks in the Bay Area. Subscribe to our newsletter for regular updates on what we’re up to.
 
Why send free books?

In American prisons, access to books is treated as a privilege, not a right. That’s why prison book programs are vital.

Most prisons do not allow prisoners to receive books directly from individuals.  Instead, books must be sent through “pre-approved vendors,” usually expensive booksellers or publishers.  In many cases, prisoners don’t have anyone on the outside who is willing or able to send books this way.  Most prisoners don’t have Internet access to order books, or money to pay for them.  Many prison libraries stock only mass-market pulp fiction and/or religious tracts.  And people in solitary confinement have no access to books outside their cells.

This is where the Prisoners Literature Project steps in.  We respond directly to prisoners’ book requests, and (working with Bound Together Books) ship hundreds of good books directly to them every week.  We know the particular book restrictions for more than a thousand prisons, and are part of a network of folks offering free information resources to those behind bars.

Activists and artists such as Nelson Mandela, Eldridge Cleaver, Jean Genet, Angela Davis, and Gandhi have written about the great solace they received from books in prison.  Every month, we receive ‘thank you’ letters from prisoners echoing the same sentiment.  The American prison-industrial complex is frighteningly huge, but — with your help — we can continue to make a positive difference for thousands of people every year.

About the Prisoners Literature Project

The Prisoners Literature Project is an all-volunteer grassroots group that sends hundreds of free book packages to needy prisoners in the United States every month.

Please consider donating to the PLP or volunteering your time (if you live in the Bay Area, CA!) to help us answer letters from prisoners who write us from all over the United States.

Latest News
Pennsylvania still refusing all donated books to prisoners – help needed!
Sep 2018

Unfortunately, Pennsylvania is still refusing to deliver any of our donated books to their prisoners, & the complaints over this major change in policy are rapidly increasing.


Pennsylvania blocking ‘books to prisoners’ orgs!
Sep 2018

Some major changes have been announced for Pennsylvania’s prison mail system which mean books-to-prisoners organizations may be permanently barred from sending to the state!


Sci-fi eBook Storybundle – benefiting the PLP!
Sep 2018

The latest sci-fi eBook Storybundle – featuring a bunch of books from Michael Moorcock & Nick Mamatas, among others – is benefiting the Prisoners Literature Project or Books Through Bars as the optional charity.