NOTE: DUE TO CORONAVIRUS, WE ARE CURRENTLY CLOSED.
Due to health risks from Coronavirus and governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order, we are currently entirely closed to the public. Although we will re-open eventually, we do not have any real idea of how long the order will remain in place.
Although we are not the sort of organization that can easily decentralize our work, we are considering what people could be able to do to help while in quarantine, and may update this page soon with some suggestions!
Welcome to Books to Prisoners
Books To Prisoners is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster a love of reading behind bars, encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-empowerment, and break the cycle of recidivism. We believe that books are tools for learning and for opening minds to new ideas and possibilities, and engage incarcerated individuals with the benefits of reading by mailing tens of thousands of free books to inmates across the country each year. In 2015, the City of Seattle recognized Books to Prisoners as a Human Rights Leader.
We receive 1,000 to 1,300 requests for books each month. The most popular requests are dictionaries, thesauruses, African American history and fiction, Native American studies, legal materials, GED materials, and foreign language learning materials (particularly Spanish). Other common requests include genre fiction such as westerns and horror, vocational-technical manuals, politics, anthropology, art and drawing books (including blank notebooks), and books on paranormal phenomena. Books to Prisoners relies on books donated by community members to answer these requests, so please consider making a donation to help a few of the thousands of individuals who request books each year.
Books to Prisoners depends on a dedicated group of volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering with our organization for years–or even decades! Volunteers work four shifts each week to find books in our collection that fulfill prisoner requests, wrap packages of books to be mailed, and sort donations of books. In 2012, our volunteers received a Light a Fire award in recognition of their immense dedication.
Books to Prisoners was founded in the early 1970s and is sponsored by Left Bank Books. As one of the largest and oldest prison book projects in the country, Books to Prisoners works in partnership with other groups that support prisoner literacy and promote social justice. Though our headquarters are in Seattle, we have three associate organizations – Portland Books To Prisoners, Books To Prisoners Olympia, and Books to Prisoners Spokane – who offer opportunities for volunteers and donors outside of Seattle.