Latest Posts

We have a new home!

We planned to have a big fancy blog post announcing our move and new home, but realized we should probably at least let everyone know that we are not homeless! We are now renting a room from the non-profit Recyclique in Durham. Our new space is *much* smaller than our old space, so we had to move some of our books into storage, and don’t have much room for more book donations. But we can always use money to pay for postage, and volunteers to help us put together packages of books so we can mail them to prisoners.

Please help!!
DONATE: We now have to pay for monthly rent ($300), in addition to postage costs of $250-$300 per month. To donate, go to our PayPal. Or you can mail a check to our PO Box (made out to “Prison Books Collective”):
PO Box 625
Carrboro, NC 27510

VOLUNTEER: To volunteer, come by our workdays on Sundays, 1-4 pm at our new space: 2811 Hillsborough Road, Durham, NC. Parking is out back, or next door in the Food Lion parking lot. We’re also open to having an extra workday during the week, if you can’t make it on Sunday, or if you’re part of a group that would like to volunteer. Email us to ask about ad hoc workdays. prisonbooks@gmail.com

Stay tuned for a more detailed blog post, and maybe even some photos!

Forget hunger strikes. What prisons fear more? Labor strikes.

Via PRI and Yes! Magazine.

June 08, 2016 · 8:00 AM EDT
By Raven Rakia

On May 1, prison labor came to a halt in multiple prisons in Alabama. Starting at midnight that day, prisoners stayed in their dormitories — refusing to show up for work at their assigned posts: the kitchen, the license plate manufacturing plant, the recycling plant, the food processing center and a prison farm.

The prisoners’ demands were pretty simple: basic human rights, educational opportunities and a reform of Alabama’s harsh sentencing guidelines and parole board.

The strike in Alabama was just the latest in a series of strikes at US prisons. On April 4, at least seven prisons in Texas staged a work strike after a prisoner sent out a call with the help of outside organizers. About a month earlier, prisoners in states such as Texas, Alabama, Virginia and Ohio called for a national general strike among prisoners on Sept. 9. That’s the 45th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion, where guards and inmates died during a prison revolt in upstate New York.

The labor strikes are a turn from the most familiar type of political protest behind bars: the hunger strike.

While hunger strikes pull at the moral heartstrings of the public, work stoppages threaten the economic infrastructure of the prison system itself.

The strike in Alabama was organized by the Free Alabama Movement, a nonviolent grassroots organizing group created by prisoners that focuses on the human rights of Alabama’s imprisoned. Not only does Alabama have one of the highest incarceration rates in the United States, but it also has one of the most overcrowded prison systems. The system’s current population sits at about 80 percent over capacity. With nearly double the inmates that the prisons were designed to hold, the packed prisons produce violence, unsanitary conditions and medical neglect.

“We view prison labor as real slavery … [in] 1865 when the 13th Amendment was ratified … they started the first wave of mass incarcerating black people,” said Melvin Ray, co-founder of the Free Alabama Movement. In the years after slavery, a formal prison system formed in the South. Some plantations were bought by the state and turned into prisons. “They use [these prisons] as a tool of control. They target African-American communities. They target politically conscious people, politically conscious organizations. And they use these prisons as a form of social control in addition to a plantation [that’s] generating revenue.”

In 2014, when Ray, along with Robert Council, founded the Free Alabama Movement, they organized a work stoppage at the Holman and St. Clair prisons. The strike at Holman prison, where Council was incarcerated, lasted from Jan. 1 to 22. Immediately afterward, both men were thrown into solitary confinement. Ray stayed there for more than a year and was just recently released to general population. Council remains in solitary confinement to this day.

Prison officials list a number of reasons for Council’s segregation, including that he allegedly administered the Free Alabama Movement Facebook group, and he was a leading and significant factor in the work strike.

In the past, hunger strikes have targeted solitary confinement. The well-known hunger strike in 2013, where tens of thousands of prisoners across California refused to eat for 60 days, protested the state’s use of indefinite solitary confinement. It was coupled with other political organizing, including lawsuits and another smaller hunger strike in 2011. Two years after what was called the largest hunger strike in US history, California agreed to limit its use of solitary confinement.

From Robben Island to Guantanamo to San Quentin, the hunger strike and the penitentiary seem attached to each other. Yet the organizers of the Free Alabama Movement have intentionally moved away from the practice.

In an essay titled “Let The Crops Rot in the Fields,” Ray and Council laid out a plan for tackling mass incarceration. The essay argues that the old ways of protesting in prisons—including hunger strikes and letter-writing campaigns — are not sufficient. Instead, organizers should attack the economic incentive of prisons. The answer, then, is to stop working—and remove the corporate profit from the prison industrial complex. The title was a reference to work strikes conducted by people who were enslaved in the South.

Members of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, the prison-organizing group of the Industrial Workers of the World labor union, started sending copies of “Let The Crops Rot in the Fields” to prisoners in other states. The labor union, apparently the only current union that welcomes prisoners, has about 800 members behind bars across the country. The essay has inspired prisoners in Virginia, Ohio, and Mississippi to organize to participate in the National Day of Strike in September 2016 and, for Texas, to have organized a work strike of their own in April.

Ray and Council haven’t always held these views. “Over the years we’ve tried a few other different things. We’ve tried letter-writing campaigns. We’ve tried marching, protesting, filing complaints in the court. We’ve tried basically all of the avenues that can be used that are made available to people who are incarcerated,” Council said.

In 2007, the entire population at Holman prison, including Council, participated in a hunger strike. The prison was in a deplorable state — backed-up sewage issues, mold on the walls, collapsed and rusted pipes. The prisoners demanded that internal affairs and reporters be allowed inside the prison to document the conditions.

Ray and Council met in prison when they were both jailhouse lawyers, assisting other prisoners with filing lawsuits and complaints about the issues in the prison while also writing their own. As their incarceration continued and their lawsuits and grievances against the prisons went nowhere, Council, Ray, and other prisoners began to have a change of heart on how to bring about change.

“We were begging [officials] to please follow the rules. Please have mercy on me. We’re asking some people to have mercy that just don’t have any mercy,” Council explained. “That revelation brought us to the fact that you can’t appeal to the moral [part] of a system that doesn’t have morals.”

The sentiment echoes the thoughts of the late Stokely Carmichael, a civil rights leader and organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which led the civil rights movement among youth in the South.

“In order for nonviolence to work, your opponents must have a conscience,” he said in 1967, two years after the assassination of Malcolm X and a year before Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. “The United States has none.”

Alex Friedmann, the managing editor of Prison Legal News, a publication of the Human Rights Defense Center, said in an email that prisons would “grind to a halt” without the use of prison labor. “The work strikes in the Alabama and Texas prison systems are a natural and predictable result of treating prisoners as slaves and often benefiting — and often profiting — from their labor. If prison officials treat prisoners as slaves, then they should not be surprised when there are occasional slave revolts,” Friedmann said.

For the rest of the article, please check out Yes! Magazine!

Industrial Workers of the World Endorses the Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Work Stoppage on September 9th, 2016

from the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee
General Strike Kitties

WHEREAS the Free Alabama Movement, Free Virginia Movement, and other revolutionary prison groups around the United States have jointly called for a Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Work Stoppage on September 9th, 2016, and

WHEREAS IWW members in prison and their allies are at the forefront of fighting the prison system from the inside,

MOVED that the GEB endorse the September 9th prisoner work stoppage with the following language:

The General Executive Board of the Industrial Workers of the World endorses the Nationally Coordinated Prisoner Work Stoppage on September 9th, 2016 organized by the Free Alabama Movement, Free Virginia Movement, and other revolutionary prisoner worker organizations and individuals. It is the duty of working class organizations like the IWW to support the struggle of prisoner workers. We call on other unions and revolutionary working class organizations to offer their support and solidarity to this important cause.

The GEB also encourages branches and IWWs to consider planning an action for September 9, to start a local organizing group, and to donate to the efforts at iwoc.noblogs.org/donate.

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For June 2016 Is Now Available

June Political Prisoner Birthday Cake

Hello Friends and Comrades,

  1. Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for June.(11″x17″ PDF, 3.3MB) Print it out and plaster your community, both in commemoration of these freedom fighters and to advertise locally for a political prisoner letter writing night.Get together with some friends in your town to send birthday cards to these fighters in our struggle. It’s an easy way to help remind them that they aren’t forgotten. If you make one, remember—don’t use anything like white-out, stickers, tape or glitter on it. We also recommend that you put a return name and address and their name and prisoner number on the card, lest the authorities “lose” the envelope and forget where it is going. If you would like to add a birthday or sign up for our poster mailing list (not a listserv, one email per month), or if you would like to contribute in another way to increasing the profile of US political prisoners, email us at ppbirthday@riseup.net.
  2. Last year’s June poster included Abdul Majid, who passed away this past April. Rest in Power, Comrade.
  3. A special thank you to the designers of this month’s poster. Designers are constantly bombarded with requests to work their trade for free, for publicity, or for a cause, and every month the PPBD Posters project relies on their generosity of time, skill and devotion to the cause of prison abolition. Cheers to Rio for putting this month’s rad poster together.
  4. It’s time to start putting the finishing touches on your plans for this year’s International Day of Solidarity with Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners. Whether it’s as small as an intimate letter writing night or movie showing with your affinity group or whether you have ambitious plans to upend all of this prison society, please make your June 11th something special. As we like to remind you monthly, anarchist prisoners are in there for us, we are out here for them.
  5. Do you need help advertising for your local Political Prisoner Letter Writing Night? Are you interested in distributing physical copies of the poster? Write to us and let’s find a way to get physical copies of our poster to you: ppbirthday@riseup.net
  6. Do you have a couple of extra dollars laying around? Fire to the Prisons is raising money to freely distribute 10,000 copies of it’s 13th issue.
  7. The NYC-Anarchist Black Cross has come out with their yearly Illustrated Guide to Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War. This is a must-have manual for all political prisoner support groups. And don’t forget to check out their latest Political Prisoner/Prisoner Of War every-other week update (PDF, 367KB). There are lots of important updates on many political prisoners. This one includes updates on Marius Mason, Leonard Peltier, the MOVE 9, and more.

Remember: They are in there for us, we are out here for them!

Fellow Workers: Remember! We are in here for you, you are out there for us!

Until Every Cage Is Empty,

The Prison Books Collective

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For May 2016 Is Now Available

May Political Prisoner Birthday Cake

Hello Friends and Comrades,

  1. Happy belated May Day!
  2. Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for May.(11″x17″ PDF, 502KB) Print it out and plaster your community, both in commemoration of these freedom fighters and to advertise locally for a political prisoner letter writing night. Get together with some friends in your town to send birthday cards to these fighters in our struggle. It’s an easy way to help remind them that they aren’t forgotten. If you make one, remember—don’t use anything like white-out, stickers, tape or glitter on it. We also recommend that you put a return name and address and their name and prisoner number on the card, lest the authorities “lose” the envelope and forget where it is going. If you would like to add a birthday or sign up for our poster mailing list (not a listserv, one email per month), or if you would like to contribute in another way to increasing the profile of US political prisoners, email us at ppbirthday@riseup.net.
  3. A special thank you to the designers of this month’s poster. Designers are constantly bombarded with requests to work their trade for free, for publicity, or for a cause, and every month the PPBD Posters project relies on their generosity of time, skill and devotion to the cause of prison abolition.
  4. If you haven’t already started preparations for this year’s International Day of Solidarity with Long-Term Anarchist Prisoners on June 11th, now is the perfect time to start.

    Rise, like lions after slumber
    In unvanquishable number!
    Shake your chains to earth like dew
    Which in sleep had fallen on you:
    Ye are many—they are few!

  5. Do you need help advertising for your local Political Prisoner Letter Writing Night? Are you interested in distributing physical copies of the poster? Write to us and let’s find a way to get physical copies of our poster to you: ppbirthday@riseup.net
  6. Keep your eyes on the Support Prisoner Resistance Blog for updates on prisoner strikes in Texas and Alabama, as well as much more.
  7. Be sure to check out the latest Political Prisoner/Prisoner Of War every-other week update (PDF, 392KB) by the NYC-Anarchist Black Cross. There are lots of important updates on many political prisoners. This one includes updates on Barrett Brown, Leonard Peltier, Jared Chase, and more.

Remember: They are in there for us, we are out here for them!

Fellow Workers: Remember! We are in here for you, you are out there for us!

Until Every Cage Is Empty,

The Prison Books Collective

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For April 2016 Is Now Available

April Political Prisoner Birthday Cake

Hello Friends and Comrades,

  1. Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for April.(11″x17″ PDF, 1.8MB) Print it out and plaster your community, both in commemoration of these freedom fighters and to advertise locally for a political prisoner letter writing night.Get together with some friends in your town to send birthday cards to these fighters in our struggle. It’s an easy way to help remind them that they aren’t forgotten. If you make one, remember—don’t use anything like white-out, stickers, tape or glitter on it. We also recommend that you put a return name and address and their name and prisoner number on the card, lest the authorities “lose” the envelope and forget where it is going. If you would like to add a birthday or sign up for our poster mailing list (not a listserv, one email per month), or if you would like to contribute in another way to increasing the profile of US political prisoners, email us at ppbirthday@riseup.net.
  2. Last year, our poster included the political prisoner Brent Betterly, and we are delighted to say that we no longer have to include him on our list of prisoners to support because he was released three days before his birthday last year, and our movements raised a fund after his release. That’s great solidarity after great news.
  3. Similarly, our antifa warrior and proud participant in the Tinley Park Incident Jason Hammond is going to be released this April! He has a release fund that you should contribute to.
  4. Check out this prison rebellion support blog for updates and calls to action to support prison rebels.
  5. Rest In Power Comrade Wopashitwe Mondo We Langa. Read Mumia’s word on his passing, and the last poem he wrote before he passed away in prison.
  6. Be sure to check out the latest Political Prisoner/Prisoner Of War every-other week update (PDF, 270KB) by the NYC-Anarchist Black Cross. There are lots of important updates on many political prisoners. This one includes updates on Mumia, Russell “Maroon” Shoatz, The Virgin Island 3, and more.

Remember: They are in there for us, we are out here for them!

Fellow Workers: Remember! We are in here for you, you are out there for us!

Until Every Cage Is Empty,

The Prison Books Collective

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For March 2016 Is Now Available

March Political Prisoner Birthday Cake

Hello Friends and Comrades,

  1. Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for March.(11″x17″ PDF, 478KB) Print it out and plaster your community, both in commemoration of these freedom fighters and to advertise locally for a political prisoner letter writing night. Get together with some friends in your town to send birthday cards to these fighters in our struggle. It’s an easy way to help remind them that they aren’t forgotten. If you make one, remember—don’t use anything like white-out, stickers, tape or glitter on it. We also recommend that you put a return name and address and their name and prisoner number on the card, lest the authorities “lose” the envelope and forget where it is going. If you would like to add a birthday or sign up for our poster mailing list (not a listserv, one email per month), or if you would like to contribute in another way to increasing the profile of US political prisoners, email us at ppbirthday@riseup.net.
  2. Be sure to check out the latest Political Prisoner/Prisoner Of War every-other week update (PDF, 304KB) by the NYC-Anarchist Black Cross. There are lots of important updates on many political prisoners. This one includes updates on Russell Maroon Shoatz, Jeremy Hammond, The Nebraska 2, and more.

Remember: They are in there for us, we are out here for them!

Fellow Workers: Remember! We are in here for you, you are out there for us!

Until Every Cage Is Empty,

The Prison Books Collective

Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For February 2016 Is Now Available

February Political Prisoner Birthday Cake

Hello Friends and Comrades,

  1. Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for February.(11″x17″ PDF, 838KB) Print it out and plaster your community, both in commemoration of these freedom fighters and to advertise locally for a political prisoner letter writing night.Get together with some friends in your town to send birthday cards to these fighters in our struggle. It’s an easy way to help remind them that they aren’t forgotten. If you make one, remember—don’t use anything like white-out, stickers, tape or glitter on it. We also recommend that you put a return name and address and their name and prisoner number on the card, lest the authorities “lose” the envelope and forget where it is going. If you would like to add a birthday or sign up for our poster mailing list (not a listserv, one email per month), or if you would like to contribute in another way to increasing the profile of US political prisoners, email us at ppbirthday@riseup.net.
  2. Jared “Jay” Chase has a pre-trial hearing on February 3rd. If you are in Chicago, pack the Cook County Criminal Courthouse at 9AM.
  3. February 6th is the 40th anniversary of the arrest of Leonard Peltier in 1976, and an international day of solidarity for this imprisoned comrade. Do something in your community.
  4. Be sure to check out the latest Political Prisoner/Prisoner Of War every-other week update (PDF, 313KB) by the NYC-Anarchist Black Cross. There are lots of important updates on many political prisoners. This one includes updates on Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, The Nebraska 2, Eric King, and more.

Remember: They are in there for us, we are out here for them!

Fellow Workers: Remember! We are in here for you, you are out there for us!

Until Every Cage Is Empty,

The Prison Books Collective

Prison Books Collective needs a new home ASAP!

UPDATE: As of April 2016, we have moved into a new place in Durham (renting a room from Recyclique). We are currently paying more in rent than we can comfortably afford, so we might look for a new, less expensive place in 2017. Let us know if you have any leads (prisonbooks (at) gmail)!


We’re an all-volunteer, non-profit based out of Carrboro, NC. Since 2006, we’ve been sending thousands of books to NC and Alabama. We are in need of a new home in the Triangle!! Please help. In March, we lose our current space, where we’ve been since 2012.

A brief description of our needs: a space to store our books, space to store folding tables and chairs, space for letters and office supplies, and room to have at least one weekly workday with 5-10 volunteers. We used to be in a 1.5 car garage, so we can have as small a space as that. We need a space that’s open and accessible to volunteers, that has parking and access to a bathroom, along with electricity (ideally heat and AC).

One idea is to share space with a church or non-profit. We can’t afford rent at this point, although might be able to afford a small monthly donation to offset costs or trade work for space.

If you have any contacts with any groups that have space they can share with us, or if you have a space we can use, let us know!! Email us at prisonbooks (at) gmail (dot) com or post on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/prisonbookscollective/

What are our basic needs?

  • Shelves for books along one or more walls (our current shelves are about 18 feet across, by 8 feet high)
  • Climate controlled space without humidity problems and with heat. Ideally AC, but we can deal without. (We’ve worked for years out of garage-like spaces but climate control helps protect books and keep volunteers comfortable)
  • Access to a bathroom (it can be in an adjacent building, as long as it’s open to volunteers)
  • Space for a file cabinet for storing zine masters, and letters
  • Space for 2-3 folding tables and 10-12 folding chairs to be stored
  • Weekly use of the space for a 3 hours session (We’ve always had our workdays on Sunday afternoons, but we can shift if needed.)
  • Parking: about 5 cars, plus occasionally more when we have a group
  • Occasional collective meetings in the space
  • The ability to share the address of the space with the public when we advertise our volunteer workdays via our website, fliers and Facebook, etc.

Our wishes:

  • Occasional access to the space for collective members on non-workdays, to drop off supplies, pick up packages to mail, pick up book donations, sort and shelve books, staple zines, take inventory
  • Ability to receive mailed boxes of books (we occasionally get book donations from publishers, and they mail us the books. They can be sent to the home of a group member, but it would be nice if they could be sent to our space)
  • Occasional book sales (about 2-4 times/year). This would involve: The week prior, storing boxes of books in the space. The day before, setting up. The day of, taking over the space we use for the workday (or another space, if our new home has a different space in mind)
  • Being able to host fundraisers. We had a comedy show once. Maybe bingo
  • Group nights (we sometimes have larger groups want to volunteer with us, and we’d like the option to host them on a different day than our regular workday)

Please share this post with others in your network, let us know if you have ideas for a space (prisonbooks (at) gmail(dot)com). And if you’re able, we’d appreciate a donation to offset costs of the move (and our weekly postage expenses to mail books!).




Political Prisoner Birthday Poster For January 2016 Is Now Available

January Political Prisoner Birthday Cake

Hello Friends and Comrades,

  1. Here is the political prisoner birthday poster for January.(11″x17″ PDF, 450KB) Print it out and plaster your community, both in commemoration of these freedom fighters and to advertise locally for a political prisoner letter writing night.Get together with some friends in your town to send birthday cards to these fighters in our struggle. It’s an easy way to help remind them that they aren’t forgotten. If you make one, remember—don’t use anything like white-out, stickers, tape or glitter on it. We also recommend that you put a return name and address and their name and prisoner number on the card, lest the authorities “lose” the envelope and forget where it is going. If you would like to add a birthday or sign up for our poster mailing list, email us at ppbirthday@riseup.net.
  2. Be sure to check out the latest Political Prisoner/Prisoner Of War every-other week update (PDF, 305KB) by the NYC-Anarchist Black Cross. There are lots of important updates on many political prisoners. This one includes updates on Marius Mason, Mumia Abu Jamal, Oscar López Rivera and more.

Remember: They are in there for us, we are out here for them!

Fellow Workers: Remember! We are in here for you, you are out there for us!

Until Every Cage Is Empty,

The Prison Books Collective