At the Bay View, we know from the long list of prisoners on our waiting list for a subscription to the paper that prisoners are hungry for reading material that is spiritually, culturally and politically nourishing. Donations to the Bay View Prisoners Subscription Fund are always welcome; you can donate online at Many prisoners, like these in Georgia, form study groups to discuss what they learn from Bay View stories. Write to them: Eugene Thomas, 671488; Claude Simpson, 823914; Anourak Thammasithikoun, 978141; Jacoub Burgoyne, 1208453; David Morgan, 334127; and Nikko Lattimore, 1174901; all are at Autry State Prison, P.O. Box 648, Pelham GA 31779. Note they must live triple-bunked in tiny cells. – Photo: Mr. M. fka Robert Mitchum II, 1279255The Prison Literature Project has been sending free books to prisoners all over the country since the 1980s. We are an all-volunteer organization and most of our books are donated. We do buy some popular items like dictionaries, Spanish-English dictionaries and how-to-draw books. We do not send out racist, sexist, homophobic or escape literature (thriller, romance, Westerns etc.).
Our goals are threefold:
1) To provide prisoners with the education most of them did not receive. Almost everyone in prison is poor and most have had only a spotty education. Many were illiterate before prison and have used the time to teach themselves to read.
2) To help them maintain their sanity by giving them something to do with their minds. Many prisoners spend long periods in solitary confinement and lots of prisons are on almost permanent lockdown.
3) To educate young people about the prison industrial complex. We have many groups of high school students who do their community service with us. By reading prisoners’ letters, they have a direct experience with incarceration.
For many years, we have been receiving more letters than we can handle: around 1, 000-1, 500 every month. We are always several months behind in filling requests. But, unfortunately, now we have run out of money. Our expenses are small: postage, mailing supplies, rent, post office box and the purchase of books. We need about $1, 500 every month.
Projects like ours are especially important now as most prison programs have been eliminated and the prison libraries that still exist only carry books like westerns and romance. Because most prisoners have had little or no education and have no way to legally earn a living when they get released, prison becomes a revolving door for them. We want to change that cycle.
Amazingly enough, we have to jump through a lot of hoops to get books into prisons. And if we don’t follow all the rules and regulations, the guards destroy the books. Some of these rules are very arbitrary. For example, many prisons won’t accept hard cover books because they believe that prisoners will make weapons out of the covers.
The prisoners who are our clients are sophisticated readers. They read philosophy, history and anthropology. They study the Black Panthers and foreign languages. There is a hunger for knowledge. And so many of them are desperate to find a way to support themselves when they get out.
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