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. We engage incarcerated individuals with the benefits of reading by mailing tens of thousands of free books to people in prisons across the country each year.
Books to Prisoners was founded in the early 1970s as a project of 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 Through Bars, Books To Prisoners Olympia, and Books to Prisoners Spokane – who offer opportunities for volunteers and donors outside of Seattle.
Our primary function is to send people in prison the books they need to spark or support their education, vocational training, self-discovery or love of reading. We receive approximately 1,000 requests for books each month and do our best to respond to every one. To find out how to make a book request, go to our How to Request Books page.
Additionally, Books to Prisoners plays an active role in fighting unjust and counterproductive prison policy & regulation on reading and access to literature. We engage departments of correction, mobilize media, and provide direct outreach to the community.
Books to Prisoners relies on books donated by community members like you to answer the thousands of book requests we receive. To find out how to donate books, go to the Donate Books page.
Books to Prisoners depends on a dedicated group of volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering with our organization for years. We host four volunteer shifts each week. Volunteers fulfill prisoner requests, wrap packages of books to be mailed, and sort donated books. To find out how to volunteer, visit our Volunteer page.
Books to Prisoners has had a major impact on a shoestring budget. Small donations from individual donors pay the bulk of our postage. See what your financial contribution can do on our Donate Money page.
Recognition for Books to Prisoners
In 2012, our volunteers received a Light a Fire award from Seattle Met magazine in recognition of their immense dedication.
In 2015, the City of Seattle recognized Books to Prisoners as a Human Rights Leader.
In 2020, Seattle Arts & Lectures gave Books to Prisoners the Sherry Prowda Literary Champion Award.
"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."
- The Autobiography of Malcolm X