"Books are how we teach ourselves to be better people. Books help us get into the minds and hearts and experiences of other people. Books foster empathy and they help us aspire to being a little better tomorrow than we are today." —Paul Constant, The Seattle Review of Books
In a recent newsletter we announced that we were transitioning to a new fiscal sponsor. We're delighted to announce that the transition is complete, and that we are now a fiscally sponsored project of Empowerment WORKS, a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Empowerment WORKS focuses on social change and unleashing the power of collaboration in the relentless pursuit of a sustainable, just future for all. As a sponsored project, we can now once again accept tax-deductible donations. We look forward to a great relationship with Empowerment WORKS!
The coronavirus pandemic has forced us to suspend our regular volunteer sessions, but we continue to do as much work as possible while keeping our volunteers safe. Our incoming mail, which averages over 200 letters from incarcerated people each week, is sorted and read by a dedicated team of home-based volunteers. Another team continues with the neverending task of contacting prisons and departments of corrections to ensure that we have current information on the rules for sending books to the prisoners in their custody. One volunteer organized a book drive for 2,000 Libros that resulted in 147 books being sent to Arizona, including 82 that had been purchased online from local bookstore Politics and Prose. Small quantities of books have been sent to prison libraries in Oklahoma and Tennessee, a prison book club in California, and individual prisoners in Arkansas, California, North Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Virginia. We will continue doing what we can to serve prisoners while keeping our volunteers safe and complying with local laws on social distancing.
Being quarantined at home for an extended period has given some of our volunteers and supporters new insights into why certain types of books are frequently requested by prisoners. An article in The Washington Post titled "The 10 types of readers you meet during a quarantine" describes categories of readers such as "seize-the-day readers keeping busy with new skills" and "escapists running away to fantastical worlds". Of the latter type of reader, the article says that:
Readers are fleeing to appealing worlds that share little in common with our own, like J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth and George R.R. Martin's Westeros. Hogwarts, too.
Just as described in the article, some of our volunteers and supporters have been escaping into fantasy or attempting to learn new skills while confined to home. One volunteer wrote that, "I had zero interest in fantasy before the coronavirus came, but am now obsessed with it because it provides my mind with a much-needed break from reality. For the first time, I understand why fantasy novels figure so prominently on our list of most-requested books. Being stuck in my apartment day after day without exercise is also making me understand why prisoners keep asking for books on bodyweight exercise."
Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has forced many prisons to restrict prisoners' movement, putting an end to library visits. The coronavirus has also infected a horrifying number of prisoners. Despite this, a number of the incarcerated readers who have written to us have expressed concern for us. One recent letter read:
This is not a request for books. The only request I wish to make at this time is that everyone exercise the necessary actions and precautions to maintain your health in response to the CoronaVirus-COVID19. Hoping for the best for you and yours. —Jimmy
Some prisoners thank us for the books we send them by donating postage stamps or writing heartfelt letters. Others send us beautiful homemade cards like this one:
Please consider making a donation to fund our important work. DC Books to Prisons is run entirely by a small group of dedicated volunteers. Your donations help cover shipping costs, which are the largest drain on our resources.
We welcome both checks and online donations. If donating through Flipcause, you can opt to make your donation a recurring gift.
Checks should be made payable to "DC Books to Prisons" and sent to us at:
DC Books to Prisons - Donations
PO Box 34190
Washington, DC 20043
Please note that instructions on how to donate have changed, due to our change of fiscal sponsor.
If you prefer to donate books, one option for donating books to prisoners is to send books directly to a prison librarian. For a list of prison librarians accepting books, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with "Prison Library List" in the subject line.