Written by Katie Martinez
As MobyLives recently reported, the Prison Book Program (PBP) has recently raised $1,800 from sixty donors that will go towards providing prison libraries with 450 dictionaries. According to the PBP’s fundraising site, each four-dollar donation buys one college-level dictionary. Dictionary drives just like this one have supplied more than 10,000 prisoners with dictionaries over the past five years. Dictionaries are one of the most highly requested books by prisoners, as they’re an incredibly useful tool that helps inmates improve their own literacy skills.
The Prison Book Program is a grassroots organization that began in 1972 with the original purpose of spreading politically progressive literature, but as word-of-mouth about the program increased, so did requests for a broader range of materials. Today, the program attempts to meet prisoner’s book requests, but they also take special care to provide prisoners with a legal primer that contains important information such as what to wear to court and pertinent legal phrases. This legal primer is free to those who request it and the PBP makes it available on their website for loved ones to print out and send to those they know who are incarcerated.
Many of us are familiar with the feeling of having a good book transport us into a new world full of adventure or mystery or love. Through programs like the PBP, prisoners are also given the opportunity to escape into a good story or to expand their knowledge in preparation for the day they get released. Reading can provide someone who’s incarcerated with a way to educate themselves, entertain their imaginations, or it can simply serve as a reason to get out of bed in the morning, as one prisoner on the PBP website pointed out.
The PBP’s mission is to support the “educational, vocational, and personal development” of inmates as well as to “help them avoid returning to prison after their release.” During this holiday season of giving, the mission to provide prisoners with resources that can help them avoid re-incarceration is certainly one worth supporting.