COVID-19 Update: We are suspending guest volunteer visits for the time being. Please check our Facebook page for updates. Thanks, and be safe!

Are there other books-to-prisons groups like y’all?

Yes! The Massachusetts-based Prison Books Program maintains a database of books-to-prisons organizations across the United States, Canada, and the UK.

View other groups

I’d like to start a books-to-prisons group. Where should I begin?

Welcome to the effort! We have compiled a guide for starting groups like ours. Note that many states, including North Carolina and Alabama, require books-to-prisons groups to be recognized publishers and/or distributors of books, so expect to prove your legitimacy to your respective department of prisons. Reach out to us if you‘d like to speak with our volunteers for advice.

Download our guide (PDF)

What books do you need? What books are banned?

Our support page lists books that are in high-demand. Please note that prisons do not accept hardbacks or books that contain markings or highlighting, gang-related materials, images of nudity, or content related to tattooing. While banned book lists vary from prison to prison and are constantly changing, a full list of banned books in North Carolina was provided to WUNC in 2018.

View banned books

Why send books to inmates when there are prison libraries?

Not all carceral institutions have libraries, and access to books can be limited by hours of operation, check-out lengths and limits, and individuals having “privileges” taken away. There is also a movement in prisons to replace free libraries with expensive e-readers. And unlike libraries, we provide zines and printed resources focused specifically on life in prison.

We believe that giving incarcerated readers books that interest them and that are indelibly theirs, with no obligation, limitation, or cost, is one of the best ways to help them. And we often hear from recipients that they pass their books on to others or to their libraries when done reading.

What are zines and why do you send them?

Zines are self-published booklets and magazines, often nonfiction, that are designed to be printed and folded as pamphlets for easy distribution. We print the zines ourselves and often send 3-5 zines in a single package, depending on the request. Zines have a rich history in punk and anarchist DIY communities, and ours cover topics such as civil rights, LGBTQIA history and advocacy, roleplaying games, self-help, and more. Our zine catalog contains a full list of publications we offer to recipients.

How can I get in touch with you?

The best way to contact us is by sending us an email. To send mail, donations, or supplies, please address packages to Prison Books Collective, PO Box 625, Carrboro, NC 27510. Our support page includes additional information about how you can help.