Friday, February 27, 2009

Books on Prisoners: Louisiana

We will be donating a bunch of adult books to Louisiana Books to Prisoners on Sunday April 5th. Really great work at getting literature to prisoners in the state of Louisiana and are completely not-for-profit. Check out the organization here:
Louisiana Books to Prisoners

"About Books 2 Prisoners

New Orleans Books 2 Prisoners is a 100% not-for-profit effort to correspond with Louisiana inmates and to mail them reading materials free of cost. Our short-term goals are to encourage literacy, to make prison-life more endurable, and to support prisoner interests to the best of our ability. It is not our place to necessarily “radicalize” prisoners, but rather to use our resources/privileges as the un-incarcerated to pass along materials on requested subjects.

If you have a loved one locked up, please have them write us a letter describing what books they are interested in:

Books 2 Prisoners
1631 Elysian Fields #117
New Orleans, LA 70117

Books 2 Prisoners’ new worknight now takes place on Sundays at 4:00 pm, at Nowe Miasto (223 Jane Place).

Books 2 Prisoners needs your support! We can always use book donations (especially dictionaries), wrapping materials (especially packing tape), and of course postage money. Please get in touch.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does an inmate get books from Books 2 Prisoners?

First they write us a letter asking for a general type of book, as we cannot fulfill requests for specific book titles. We send a package of 2-3 books matching as closely as we can to the request, provided that their prison will accept packages from us. We only fulfill requests from any particular inmate once every three months.

How long has Books 2 Prisoners been around?

Since 2003 it has been run by several different people. After Katrina it was restarted by a local group who still run it today. This incarnation had been around for about three years.

I went to a worknight when I was in Austin, Chicago, Portland (any city). Is your group related to that group?

No. All of the prison book programs are autonomous and run independent of each other. We keep in touch via a listserv and occasionally there are national conferences.

Where does your group send to?

We currently send to prisons nationwide, but in the future we may narrow our services to just Louisiana and southern states not provided for by other groups. We do not send to jails due to the likelihood that a prisoner will be moved or released before we reach their letter in the backlog.

What are prison restrictions on books?

Every prison has its own regulations. Some common restrictions are: no hardcovers, no used books (this one really frustrates us), and no books except by an “approved vendor” which means that we cannot send anything to that prison. Often times it is at the discretion of the individual mail room. We do not send anything depicting pictures of weapons or overtly sexual situations, damaged hardcover books, or books with “provocative” words like anarchy in the title (these qualities often increase the possibility that a book will be rejected.).

Can you send to Angola?

No. They always send our books back. In the past we have gotten packages into Angola, but they have tightened their restrictions since then. They no longer accept used or hardcover books, and we lack the funds to provide new books. We run on a very tight budget and we cannot afford to keep trying.

How can I donate books?

They can be brought to 223 Jane Place during a worknight. You can email to schedule a different time to drop them off.

What kind of books do you want?

We always need more Black History, Dictionaries, Sign Language, Occult and Mystic Religions and General Health Books (books about specific diseases). We also need books on science, math, history, language, philosophy, psychology, and hobbies. Please DO NOT bring us hardcover textbooks, as they are far too heavy and cost too much to mail. This is also true of hardcover fiction and children’s books. Books with wire spines, CDs, DVDs, or books that are badly damaged all cannot be sent to prisons, so please don’t bring us anything of that nature. While all donations are appreciated, we do not have the space or time to process these types of contributions.

What books are most commonly requested by inmates?

The most common requests are for Black History, Dictionaries, Magic and the Occult, Sign Language, Suspense Fiction, Medical Dictionaries, Westerns, Horror, and True Crime.

There are also quite a few requests for books on science, computers/technology, job hunting, Spanish-English dictionaries, poetry, and hobbies (trucks, dogs, boating, airplanes, mechanics, construction, etc.)

Items that are not commonly requested or that we have enough of are romance novels, political biographies, and out-of-date reference books (old almanacs, technical manuals, encyclopedias, etc.)

Can I make a tax-deductible donation?

Not yet. We are currently working toward our 501c3 (Nonprofit) status.

How many people run Books 2 Prisoners?

Currently, 3-5. We welcome all levels of participation.

How many packages do you send out a week?

It depends on how many people show up to wrap packages. Often times it’s only limited to the amount of time available, as we have a sizable backlog of letters.

Where does your funding come from?

A little here, a little there. We throw events, concerts, sell books. Sometimes individuals or groups will raise money or collect donations at private events that they in turn donate to us. We’d love to secure a more reliable source of funding, and we welcome any ideas or suggestions on the topic of fundraising.

Do you ever sell books?

Sometimes we table and sell books at shows, but not as frequently as we would like. If you are willing and available to table for us, please let us know. We can sell any book from our collection during a worknight as well, providing that it is not in one of our highly sought after catagories.

What do you need volunteers to do?

On worknights we answer letters from inmates and wrap packages. This is the most common volunteer task. We sort books away and process donations. We also enter mailed packages into a database and research a prisoner’s status online before we mail a package to them..

Outside of worknights we need someone to: take packages to the post office, table at shows and events selling books, throw shows, parties, and benefits, and monitor sales.

If you interested in ANY of these tasks or any others that you can think of that we are not engaged in, please come to a worknight and talk to a collective member or email

What’s the difference between a volunteer and a collective member?

Collective members are responsible for keeping the program going. They have access to the space and at least one is always staffing a worknight. They handle the finances and vote on decisions at our monthly meetings. Volunteers and Collective members both wrap packages and conduct all the worknight tasks. Both are equally important to keep the project going. People who volunteer with us are welcome to assume as much responsibility as they wish and are capable of, and we encourage people to be involved as much as possible. We recommend that people be realistic about the level of commitment that they can handle. We have monthly meetings for people who are interested in being even more involved. If you’ve been coming to the worknights for awhile feel free to ask us about these meetings.

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