Prison Book Program

Prison Book Program

Being incarcerated is life changing–no one can disagree with that. What a prisoner chooses to do with his or her time in prison can alter the course of not only their lives, but the lives of loved ones, family, friends and community. Many inmates that are incarcerated lack the basic necessary skills to read or communicate properly. Having access to books can vastly help a prisoner learn reading, writing, and math skills as well as engaging higher thinking skills.

What does the Prison Book Program do? It’s mission is to send free books to prisoners. How wonderful is that! 

The original Prison Book Program, based in Massachusetts, began in 1972. Members of the Red Book Store Collective realized just how important it was for prisoners to have access to literature, both non-fiction and fiction. Through grassroots movements, word got out about the Prison Book Program and soon books were passed on to other prisoners in other states and prisons. 


“I believe that books (education) are the ONLY vehicle to change whether in or out of prison. I would be lost without books and folks to send them.”


Prisoners soon began asking for legal materials to help them either prepare appeals or to file legal complaints. As of 2011, the Prison Book Program distributes a “Legal Primer” which is a compilation of essential legal information. In addition to the Legal Primer, the Prison Book Program helps assemble all the necessary books to help prisoners prepare for the General Education Development (GED) exam, made possible by a grant from the Better World Books’ LEAP program. 

The Prison Book Program functions by donations and volunteers. Most prisons do not allow friends or family to send books and most prisoners cannot afford to buy books and most prison education programs have been drastically cut. The books donated to the program are greatly appreciated by the inmates.

The Prison Book Program runs several book drives per year as well as maintaining regular drop-off and volunteer hours. The program also has a newsletter where prisoners can write book reviews, send in poetry and give testimonials to their personal success with the Prison Book Program.

Currently, the Prison Book Program donates books for free to all states except–California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada and Texas. They have compiled a list of other prison book programs throughout the country.

How can you help? Clean off your bookshelves, and please donate high quality reading and educational material to any of the above mentioned prison book programs. What a great gift for someone who is incarcerated and wants to expand their minds!


“I am hoping that you will see how positive I am thinking in changing my life so that I can also give back to the community.  I am seeking information or help to give myself a chance in life.  Thank you very much.”


-A prisoner from Fairton, New Jersey