Welcome to Books To Prisoners!
Books To Prisoners (BTP) is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that sends free books to prisoners in the United States. BTP believes that books are tools for learning and opening minds to new ideas and possibilities. By sending books to prisoners, we hope to foster a love of reading and encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement.
Founded in the early 1970s and sponsored by Left Bank Books, BTP receives 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 material, GED materials, and languages (particularly Spanish). Other common requests include genre fiction such as westerns and horror, vocational-technical manuals, politics, anthropology, art and drawing, psychology, and health and fitness. BTP relies on donated books to answer requests. Most prisons accept paperback books only and some have additional restrictions on the contents of books.
BTP functions on the efforts of one program coordinator and a dedicated group of volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering for years. Volunteers work four evenings a week opening letters, finding books in our collection that correspond to the request, and wrapping and mailing parcels. Because of continuing backlog of requests, prisoners sometimes wait up to six months to receive their books.
As one of the largest prison book projects in the country, BTP works in conjunction with other agencies that support prisoner literacy and promote social justice. BTP has three associate organizations – Portland Books To Prisoners, Books To Prisoners Olympia, and Bellingham Books To Prisoners. These sister groups assist in answering letters, mailing packages, and soliciting book donations.
I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.