Holiday Donation Drive for Women in Cook County Jail

Please support this initiative by Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. Your thoughtfulness will help women in difficult circumstances during the holidays and beyond.

Learn more here.

Cook County Bridget Gainer - Holiday Donation Drive.jpg

Be a Part of #GivingTuesday

Black Friday has come and gone.
Cyber Monday too.
But the spirit of Thanksgiving continues.

Today is the third annual #GivingTuesday, a national day of generosity to non-profit organizations. We know there are many worthy causes you could support, but since you’re reading this, chances are you share our sense of the importance of our mission.

For more than 12 years, we’ve been meeting weekly to read letters and fulfill requests from women behind bars across the country. We do our best to choose just the right books from the thousands of paperbacks donated year round by readers in Chicago and beyond, in able to offer the women we serve the  education, entertainment and self-empowerment that reading provides.

In 2013, we mailed 2,274 packages of books—nearly 7,000 books in all—and it looks likely that we’ll surpass that for 2014. We couldn’t do any of it without people like you who care about this as much as we do.

We welcome all gifts, but here are some specific ways your donation can help:

  • $15 provides a week’s worth of packing tape
  • $35 pays Media Mail postage for ten book packages (three books each to ten women)
  • $70 buys First Class postage for one blank journal each to 20 women
  • $125 covers our rent for one month (we’ve recently expanded, which will help us do more, more efficiently)
  • $200 is a typical week’s worth of postage (multiply that by 52 and you get a good idea of our need throughout the year)

Please help if you can on #GivingTuesday. Paypal is handy at the top right of this page. Or send a check or money order to:

Chicago Books to Women in Prison
c/o RFUMC
4511 N. Hermitage Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @ChicagoBWP so you can share in the energy of #GivingTuesday. And help us get the word out to your friends and followers!

New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, November 30

Concerned about prison issues and want to get involved? Intrigued by the chance to make a concrete, personal difference in the lives of prisoners?

Join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers—Sunday, November 30, 1–2pm, right before our regular 2–5pm work session. Get the details here.

If you can’t make it this week, plan now to join us for our next orientation. These monthly events usually take place the last Sunday of the month, but to better accommodate holiday travel and such, our next orientation will be Sunday, January 4. This might even tie in nicely to a New Year’s resolution or two. Volunteer? Meet new people? Save the world (or at least one small part of it)?

If you’re not often available on Sunday, check out other ways to get involved and help give women in prison the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides.

Maya Schenwar’s book, “Locked Down, Locked Out”, is out today!

Locked Down Locked Out cover

We’re delighted to share this message from Maya, a good friend of Chicago Books to Women in Prison:

Hope you are all having a wonderful fall. As many of you know, for the last couple of years, I have been writing a book. And now, bizarrely, it actually exists! It’s called Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, and it is out TODAY (coincidentally, my birthday)!

If you buy it today or anytime during the coming week, I’ll be donating my royalties to Marissa Alexander’s Legal Defense Fund. (Marissa is a Florida survivor of domestic violence who is facing 60 years in prison for firing a warning shot at the wall, to defend herself against her abusive husband.)

So, I have a couple of birthday wishes. I’m hoping you can take these steps, in exchange for my undying love and admiration, which you already have, but still:

1. Buy the book!

You can do that here: amazon.com/Locked-Down-Out-Prison-Doesnt/dp/1626562695
Or here: powells.com/biblio/9781626562691
Or here: womenandchildrenfirst.com/book/9781626562691

2. Spread the word! Email, tweet, Facebook, blog, etc.!
Here’s an image to assist with that.

Locked Down Locked Out

Thanks so much, everyone!

Love,
Maya

P.S.: Some nice things people said about the book:

“This book has the power to transform hearts and minds…. I turned the last page feeling nothing less than inspired.” —Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

“Maya Schenwar’s stories about prisoners, their families (including her own), and the thoroughly broken punishment system are rescued from any pessimism such narratives might inspire by the author’s brilliant juxtaposition of abolitionist imaginaries and radical political practices.” —Angela Y. Davis, author of Are Prisons Obsolete?

“This moving book makes a very important intervention into both the popular understanding and the political discussions about the devastating impact of mass imprisonment. In her riveting descriptions of what happens to individuals and families caught in the long reach of the prison nation, Schenwar makes a compelling case for prison abolition and reinvestment in communities. This book will change both what we understand about injustice and how we work for more logical and effective solutions.” —Beth E. Richie, author of Arrested Justice: Black Women, Violence, and America’s Prison Nation

New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, October 26

It’s easy to make a difference in a concrete, personal way in the lives of incarcerated women looking for the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides.

Join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers. It takes place the last Sunday of each month, 1–2pm, right before our regular 2–5pm work session. Get the details here.

If you can’t make it this week, plan now to join us for the November 30 orientation. Not available on Sundays? There are lots of other ways to get involved and help get books in the hands of women in prison. We hope to see you soon!

“I, Junkie”—a Correction and the Poem

In 2007 we published Bound Struggles #6, our occasional anthology of writing by prisoners, including two poems submitted by Elizabeth Cardona titled “Junkie” and “Prisoner”. Recently we learned of a poem by Jeffrey Bardo, “I, Junkie”, that appeared in the 2005 Journal of the Prison Arts Program, published by Community Partners in Action, a Connecticut organization. (See below for the cover of this edition and the page on which his poem appeared.) In comparing “Junkie” and “Prisoner” with Mr. Bardo’s poem, it is clear that his work was plagiarized.

IJunkiePhotos

We are glad to give Mr. Bardo the credit he deserves and to publish his poem. Continue reading ‘“I, Junkie”—a Correction and the Poem’

Sunday, October 19—Books Behind Bars at Uncharted Books

Learn more about what we do and the difference it makes to the women we serve. We love Uncharted Books—they’ve been a good friend by helping us get hard-to-find books—and we appreciate Tanner’s support. Join us for:

Books Behind Bars
Hosted by Uncharted Books

Sunday, October 19, 6 p.m.
2620 N. Milwaukee (Kedzie & Milwaukee) in Logan Square
Light refreshments served

  • Hear guest speaker Reynolds Wintersmith—whose sentence was recently commuted by Presidential pardon after serving 20 years—on his experience and the importance of books for him in prison
  • Browse at Uncharted and buy books requested by the women we serve
  • Learn from our volunteers all the ways you can help provide books to people in prisons

Download event flyer

New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, September 28

If you’ve been thinking about getting involved, now’s the time. Join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers. It takes place the last Sunday of each month, 1–2pm, right before our regular 2–5pm work session. Get the details here.
If you can’t make it this week, plan now to join us for the October 26 orientation. Not available on Sundays? There are lots of other ways to get involved and help get books in the hands of women in prison. We hope to see you soon!

“The End of Juvenile Prison” — Book Talk & Discussion — Sat., Sept. 13 in Evanston

Burning_Down_the_House

In her new book, Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison, award-winning journalist and advocate Nell Bernstein presents a critical look at the juvenile justice system. Continue reading ‘“The End of Juvenile Prison” — Book Talk & Discussion — Sat., Sept. 13 in Evanston’

Poem from Florida

Forgotten and Alone in Prison

Here I am locked up again,
with no family or loved ones near.
All that’s left inside of me
is the sadness and fear.
I pray to God for salvation and
to lead me in his precious grace.
As I beg him to show me mercy
as tears roll down my face.
As I lay here in my cell sitting on my bed,
I shed another tear, because I feel
I’ve been forgotten
by those I love so dear to me. Continue reading ‘Poem from Florida’


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