BOOKS BEHIND BARS
WHO WE ARE
Books Behind Bars is a grassroots, volunteer-run prison abolition project that provides free books upon request to people incarcerated in New Jersey prisons. Based in Wildwood, we are the first and only books-to-prisoner program in New Jersey.
WHAT WE DO
Incarcerated people send us letters to request books. Requests can be general, such as asking for a genre, or very specific such as certain titles or authors. We have a library of donated books to pull from and we match each request the best we can. We then pack up the books and mail them out.
WHY DO WE DO THIS?
We believe that reading is a basic human right. Most prisons do not have adequate prison libraries or educational programs. There are often excessive restrictions in place which prevent incarcerated people from obtaining reading materials. For example, they don't allow family and friends to send books into prisons - which means books must come from a bookstore, online retailer or a project like ours. Many families can't afford to buy books for their loved ones in prison, and many incarcerated folks have been in prison for so long that they don't have any contacts on the outside. This is why books-to-prisoner programs are vital. We promote literacy, reading, and education behind bars, and help break the cycle of recidivism.
Sending books to incarcerated people is an act of love. It's a way to provide direct aid and show solidarity with imprisoned communities. We acknowledge that the prison industrial complex disproportionally targets BIPOC, queer, trans/gender non-conforming people as well as disabled folks and sex workers.
We challenge mass incarceration through our work. We shift some control back into the hands of incarcerated people. We provide access to knowledge of their choosing, so they can learn and grow as they desire.
We believe that books are powerful. Activists and visionaries such as Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Eldridge Cleaver, Malcolm X, and Gandhi wrote about the solace they received from books in prison. With your help, we can make a positive impact in so many lives.
HOW TO WE USE DONATIONS
Books Behind Bars is a grassroots project that is completely volunteer run. All monetary donations go directly towards shipping and materials. You can also help by donating books, stamps, and packing supplies!
WRITE TO US
Incarcerated folks can write to us at the following address to request books:
Books Behind Bars
PO BO 2611
Wildwood, New Jersey
We currently only serve people incarcerated in New Jersey. However, there are a number of similar prison book programs operating across the country. We are not affiliated with them, but we wholeheartedly support their work.
If you have a family member, friend, or loved one that would benefit from Books Behind Bars, please forward them our mailing address so they can send us a request for books.
“ 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."
- Malcolm X