Our current COVID restrictions (as of April 2022:)
All trained volunteers are welcome, but we are operating through sign-up shifts, rather than drop-in shifts. If you have volunteered with us before, please email us for the link to sign up for a shift!
We are also accepting new volunteers, but due to the limited capacity of our current shifts, we may ask you to wait a while before your first shift/orientation. Again, please email us for more information on how to volunteer with us at this particular point in time.
At this point in time, all shifts are masked, and you MUST be fully vaccinated prior to volunteering in our office.
We are maintaining this level of restriction in spite of (and, partially, due to) Washington’s state revocation of the mask mandate – cases have been rising since the statewide relaxation of COVID restrictions, and we see no reason to discontinue our level of caution at this point in time.
However, the “end conditions” for our protocols are an ongoing conversation, and we hope to relax things in the near future – this page will continue to be updated as we make our decisions, so keep an eye out if you’re interested!
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 approximately 1,000 requests for books each month. The most popular requests are dictionaries, thesauruses, African American history and fiction, Native American studies, legal materials, genre fiction such as fantasy and horror, and foreign language learning materials (particularly Spanish). Other common requests include vocational-technical manuals, ancient history, scientific textbooks, 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 five 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.