Books For Inmates

“I have never known any distress that an hour’s reading did not relieve.” – Charles de Montesquieu

Prison can be a mind dulling place so it’s no wonder books for inmates is a frequent request from those behind bars.  Books can provide both an education and a place of escape from reality.  Topics and needs are as diverse as the prison population.  While many facilities have libraries they are not always stocked with current titles or topics that may be of interest to your loved one.

Girls with books

Sending books is an expensive proposition since most prisons do not accept book packages unless they recognize the sender.  So buying a book and mailing it yourself may not be an option.  The book may need to be purchased from a book seller such as Barnes & Noble and shipped by them as well.  (If the help behind the counter gives you grief, ask for the store manager.  They should be familiar with the policy.)   Some facilities will accept books from Amazon, but based on posts on various websites it seems highly subjective.

Once the book arrives, it may not be accepted by the prison.  Pursuant to Administrative Rule 5120-9-19, material may be excluded If the material is “…a threat to rehabilitation of inmates, security, good order, or discipline of the institution.”   This gives Administrators wide latitude in what they will accept.  Generally, books with nudity, erotica, calls for civil disobedience or similar will not be permitted.

There is help.  Several organizations across the country work hard to get books through the prison bars to mentally feed the inmates.  Inmates simply need to write with their book request.  Yes, it is that easy but due to resource limitations, there is no guarantee the need will be met exactly as requested or fulfilled at all!  Your loved one may want a specific book, but they may also be equally happy reading something in the same genre by a different author.  Because these organizations are book-readers, not mind-readers, encourage your loved one to be specific but also include a general interest category ( e.g.  civil war stories, space science fiction, getting a GED, learning Spanish).  These organizations are book-readers, not mind-readers!   Below is a list of organizations serving Ohio.  The size, resources, selection and response time will vary.  Click through to the website to obtain their snail-mail address and specifics.

Book for Inmates

Cleveland Books 2 Prisoners – Cleveland based.  This is a relatively new group.  Next to the Capital Theatre at W65th & Detroit.

Redbird Books to Prisoners –  Columbus, Oh based volunteer group.  Will send free books at the inmates request.  Ships twice per month.

Athens Books to Prisoners –  Athens, Oh based volunteer group.  Will send free books at inmates request.  Ships twice per month.

Appalachian Prison Book Project –  University of West Virginia based,  this group serves:  OH, WV, MD, TN, VA, KY.   This is a 501(c) charitable organization.  Ships weekly.

Chicago Books To Women in Prison –  Chicago based, serving only the female population.

DC Books to Prisoners –  Washington, DC based this group has been in operation since 1999 and serves the entire United States and all demographic groups.

LGBT Books to Prisoners – Wisconsin based.  Serves the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community in all 50 States, except Texas.

Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project – Bloomington, IN based.  Sends free reading material to inmates in AZ, AR, FL, IN, IA, KS, KY, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, OK, SD, TN, and WI. Does not send books to Texas inmates.

Prison Library Project – California based.  Serves all 50 states, except MA.

Prisoners Literature Project – California based group that got started in the early 1980’s.  They serve the entire US and is a 503(c) charitable organization.

Providence Books Through Bars – Providence, RI based. Serves the entire US.

No Charge vs. “Free”

The above organizations send out books at “no charge” and most use the word “free” to describe their services.  But nothing is ever truly  “free”, not even when it says “free”.  Books for inmates sent at no charge have been paid for by good people investing their personal time, talent and treasure.  We ask that you respect the gift!  If your family is financially stressed then by all means avail yourself, without guilt, to the services provided.  However, if it is within your means we ask that you leave these resources for ones less fortunate than yourself or that you make a “free” will donation so they may continue their activities.

Note:  Some organizations serving inmates have a political and social agenda that may be different than you’re own or  the Leaf Ministry.   The Leaf Ministry does not endorse any of these organizations directly and has no first hand experience in dealing with them.   This list is for reference and convenience only.


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Updated: March 18, 2019 — 2:17 pm