Prisoners Literature Project


Check out videos of volunteers reading letters and showing book selections

Berkeley High students interested in law and social justice have participated in multiple book selection sessions this past year.

Berkeley High students interested in law and social justice have participated in multiple book selection sessions this past year in coordination with another local social justice organization The Ahimsa Collective

The students were often intrigued by the letters they were responding to and did their best to find the most appropriate books to fulfil the sometimes very specific or broad requests.

The four students pictured here are off to college in the Fall. We hope they carry a little bit of their experience at PLP with them.

We look forward to hosting more student sessions next year!

Double your impact for Independent Bookstore Day 2024!

We’re back again! And Independent Bookstore Day 2024 is your big opportunity to support local booksellers and stock up on new selections for yourself — and once again, for PLP as well.

From April 27th to May 14th, 2024, you can double your support for the Prisoners Literature Project. Just buy books for us to send to incarcerated folks from one of our independent Bay Area bookshop partners linked below.

When you buy books from the below independent bookshops, online or in person, a funder will generously match every purchase up to $1,000 per store! So you can, once again, double your impact:

Books Inc.  (online wishlist & in-store displays)
(Stores: 1491 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, 2483 Washington Ave, San Leandro)

East Bay Booksellers (online wishlist only)

Pegasus Books (online wishlist & in-store display)
(Stores: in downtown Berkeley at 2349 Shattuck Ave & at 1855 Solano Ave, Berkeley.)

Cape & Cowl Comics (in-store display only)
(Store: 1601 Clay St, Oakland)

These donated books will allow PLP to fulfill a range of requests from incarcerated letter writers, who often ask for the sought-after titles on these lists, which we have trouble fulfilling from regular donations.

What kinds of books do people ask for?

The most common requests are for genre fiction (thrillers, romance, sci-fi/fantasy, etc), self-help, business, drawing, graphic novels, science, GED material, exercise, almanacs and so much more. People also ask for some very specific topics and we do our best to fulfill the spirit of the inquiry.

Here is a sample of letters that volunteers responded to recently.

Great to receive this letter from someone who really enjoyed the book he received from us

Also we love that he shared it with others at his facility to enjoy.

Thick fantasy/sci-fi novels like “The Starless Crown” are a popular request from incarcerated readers. The more pages to escape into… Thanks again to Tor Publishing for donating multiple copies of this book to PLP!

Fall 23/Winter 24 Thank you letters

We are happy to share the following letters that we received during the holidays from book recipients.

See some favorite wishlist donations in 2023

We have wishlists at many of our bookstore partners!

Prisoners Literature Project – how you helped us deliver in 2023!

Welcome to our last update of 2023. As the New Year approaches, we want to thank all of our co-ordinators, volunteers, bookstore partners, and donors for making it another very successful year sending free books to incarcerated folks in 49 U.S. states.

We recommend following our Instagram feed to keep up on the PLP. But here’s some highlights for the year:

– We sent out over 10,000 packages of new & used books into U.S. prisons, and truly matched books to the requests of so many – who would have otherwise gone without.
– We bolstered the books in our dedicated library space by getting donations from publishers like Tor & local bookstore partners (and even from Palm Springs!)
– We participated in local book fairs to spread the word and re-sell books we can’t otherwise send out!
– We hosted students from the social justice program at Berkeley High School, and will do more student sessions in 2024.
– We got some wonderful thank-you letters from incarcerated folks who are able to be inspired, learn new skills, or transport their minds with our books.

With thousands of hours of volunteering from those who help us pick and pack books yearly – not to mention the many generous donations you give – PLP’s outreach wouldn’t have been possible in 2023. So thank you!

Final reminder: tax-deductible donations welcome before end of year!

Since we only have a few days left until the end of 2023, we wanted to remind everyone preparing your annual donations to non-profits:

– We greatly appreciate your money donations via credit card or PayPal. 
– We’re a U.S. 501(c)(3) non-profit, so those donations are tax-deductible!
– If you want to donate via check, feel free to send it via the Bound Together Books address in San Francisco (our book store partner!)

Finally, if you have a specific directed donation in mind, or some other way to help the cause, please email us direct and we can discuss it.

The vast majority of your donations go towards a) the $60,000+ U.S. Postal Service bill we get every year b) buying select ‘remaindered’ books that we can’t get donated c) rent on our dedicated library space. (All vital to our continued work!)

Thanks once again for your support, and happy holidays,
– PLP co-ordinators and friends.

PLP Giving Tuesday update – matching funds now $5,500!

Thanks to a kind donor, the matching for Prisoners Literature Project’s Giving Tuesday campaign has been upped to $5,500. So every dollar you give, up to $5.5k has its impact doubled, until Friday, Dec. 1st.

Reminder of our goal: to continue sending out  >1,000 free book packages every month to incarcerated folks in 49 U.S. states. But we’re running at a money deficit in 2023, for two reasons:

– Increased cost of postage: Postage for a 3 lb book package will increase over 16% in January 2024 from late January 2021.
– increased cost for books: Each year more institutions accept only new books, and more people inside are requesting specific new books to help them develop skills for employment when they are released.

So we’re asking:

Donate before Friday to double your impact!
(Donations are tax-deductible. Debit cards, credit cards, and PayPal accepted – please contact us if you want to donate a different way.)

PS – here’s an excerpt from the thank-you letter shown above: “I am grateful and appreciative of the work you do. I am … serving a lengthy sentence, and honestly reading a good book, or any for that matter, has been my daily escape. I wasn’t much of a reader before, but three years into my incarceration and I’ve turned into a bibliophile. I found out about your organization through a book titled ‘The Sentences That Create Us.’ It was given to me by my cellmate as a parting gift when he was transferred to a different prison…. I wish I would have known about you sooner.”

PLP needs your help with our deficit – get your donation $ doubled!

For our annual #GivingTuesday campaign, and Prisoners Literature Project has a special ask. To help us, we’ve put together $5,500 in matching funds, so the dollars you donate can be doubled from now until the end of November.

We’ve been sending out >1,000 free book packages every month to incarcerated folks in 49 U.S. states. But we’re running at a money deficit in 2023, for two reasons:

– Increased cost of postage: the USPS has been raising prices twice a year, due to inflation. A 3 lb book package will cost us $5.32 to send in January 2024, up from $4.45 in late 2021. (That’s a lot!)
– High-quality books can be expensive to buy: we’re trying our best to fulfil requests that we can’t get donated in bulk, from practical ‘profession to pursue when I get out’ books – see the below thank-you letter – to dictionaries. (Also: many prisons only allow new books in!) These books can cost us $2-$12 each.

We have money in the bank, but we’re looking to make up our $20,000+ funding deficit in the remainder of 2023. If we can’t, we’ll have to cut back on those high-quality book purchases in 2024.

So if you can help us out, please:

Donate to PLP now!
(Debit cards, credit cards, and PayPal accepted – please contact us if you want to donate a different way!)

All of your donations are tax-deductible, too. Thanks for listening, and we’ll be back next week for a final reminder ahead of #GivingTuesday.

About the Prisoners Literature Project

The Prisoners Literature Project is an inclusive, all-volunteer, grassroots nonprofit whose purpose is to encourage reading, the pursuit of knowledge, and self-determination among incarcerated people. By sending free reading materials to those behind bars, PLP aims to foster learning and critical thinking and help people prepare to lead successful lives after incarceration. We believe that all people have a right to read.

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.

Prisoners – want books?

Mailing address for U.S. prisoner book requests: Prisoner Literature Project c/o Bound Together Books 1369 Haight St San Francisco, CA 94117 There's more info here on what else prisoners need to include with their requests.