Thurs., February 21—An Evening at Victory Gardens Theater

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JEFF RECOMMENDED!  

★★★ “Powerful… bristles with zest and indignant life.”
Chicago Tribune

★★★ “Absolutely deserves to be seen.”
Chicago Sun-Times

“Morisseau’s dialogue ripples with warmth and wit as well as despair about the state of public education in impoverished districts.”
—Chicago Reader

Please join us for a performance of this new play that reflects on parenthood, the state of our public school system, and the prison pipeline. This is a fundraiser for Chicago Books to Women in Prison and your support will help us do more in 2019.

Watch the trailer.
Watch an interview with the cast.

Thursday, February 21, 7–9:30 pm
Victory Gardens Theater
2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago (map)

Buy tickets today

In addition to the play (90 minutes, no intermission):

  • Join us at 6:30 pm for a wine-and-cheese reception.
  • Then enjoy the 7:30 pm performance of Pipeline.
  • After the show (9 pm), stay for conversation. Reflect on what you’ve seen, learn about the greater context, and share your response.
  • BONUS: Included in the ticket, a copy of Bound Struggles, our collection of writing and art by women in prison.

Also support our book drive at Victory Gardens Theater.
Feel free to bring new or gently used educational books—paperbacks only, please—especially dictionaries of all kinds, craft books, books on learning a foreign language or trade skills, or on starting and running a small business.

Buy tickets today

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Shop indy bookstores in the new year

We’re delighted to make it easy for our Chicago friends to buy books for us at two of our favorite independent bookstores—one on the North Side and one on the South Side.

Visit the special displays at Women & Children First and 57th Street Books, and help us stock our bookcases for 2019 with high-demand, high-impact books that tend not to be donated.

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WCF ❤ CBWP
Through Valentine’s Day, buy a gift card of any amount and help us reach $1,000. We’ll use the proceeds to buy books from Women & Children First (5233 N. Clark St., 773-769-9299).

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New year, new books for women in prison
Through the end of January, browse our display and buy a book or two for us. (We’ll pick them up.) Or buy a gift card we can use to buy books from 57th Street Books (1301 E. 57th St., 773-684-1300).

Don’t live in Chicago? You can call either store or order a gift card online, noting that it’s for Chicago Books to Women in Prison. Thank you on behalf of the women we serve.

Celebrating Bound Struggles—Fri., June 1

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Friday, June 1
6–8 pm (program begins at 6:30)

Uncharted Books
2620 N. Milwaukee Ave.
(directly across from the Logan Square Blue Line station)

Join us in celebrating Bound Struggles, our 56-page collection of writing and art by incarcerated women across the country. Enjoy readings by volunteers and the opportunity to learn more about our work and the importance of books in prison.

Copies of Bound Struggles available for purchase
(If you don’t live nearby, copies are available by mail for $10 including postage.)

Refreshments and snacks

Get the details on our Facebook event page.

15th Anniversary Party—Weds., November 15

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Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebrating 15 years of providing the lifeline of books to women in prison!
Wednesday, November 15
6–9 pm (program begins at 6:30)
After-Words Bookstore (private event space)
23 E. Illinois St., Chicago
The program:
    • Writer, scholar and artist Eve Ewing read from her widely acclaimed Electric Arches.  
    • KoStar, an amazing soul duo, performed. You may have seen them at the farewell event for Rasmea Odeh, the African Festival of the Arts or many other venues.
    • Our friend Monica Cosby, a writer and activist, spoke on the importance of books for people in prison.
    • Members of Praxilla Femina sang. We were delighted to see this women’s music collective of professional opera singers again after the benefit concert in the spring. 
    • And it was a release party too! Monica read selections from Bound Struggles, our relaunched journal of writing and art by women in prison. Everyone at the party got a copy.

Enjoy video of our special guests:

Eve Ewing     KoStar     Monica Cosby     Praxilla Femina

Our New Independent Bookstore Partner

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We appreciate everyone who buys books that we need but which are rarely donated. This helps us fill gaps in our inventory and enables us to do a better job of sending the very books a woman asks for.

We’re happy to now offer an easy way to buy from a local independent bookstore—Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston.

If you live in the area, please stop by Bookends & Beginnings1712 Sherman Avenue, Alley #1. Look for the Chicago Books to Women in Prison bookcase featuring a wide range of books selected just for us: entertainment, post-prison life, memoir, reference and wellness.

You can purchase books directly from this display. (You can also make a cash/check donation and let the bookstore use it on the most requested books.) Or order online. (There is no shipping charge as one of our volunteers will pick up the books.)

We have a goal of 200 books by the end of October. Please help us get these books into the hands of the women we serve. Check out the wish list at Bookends & Beginnings today!

Laughs Unlocked benefit show—Thurs., May 18

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Recommended by Chicagoist and the Reader!
Tickets on sale now! Buy online or call 773.697.9693.

Prison is no laughing matter, but we’ll make an exception because some of the best improv actors in Chicago are throwing us a benefit. Again!

In this two-act show they’ll create scenes based on stories from our friend Colette Payne. Colette, who was formerly incarcerated, is a community organizer with Cabrini Green Legal Aid/Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers. Continue reading ‘Laughs Unlocked benefit show—Thurs., May 18’

Benefit concert—Saturday, April 8

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We’re delighted that Praxilla Femina—a new women’s music collective of professional opera singers—has chosen to benefit us with their first concert. 
According to the group, “Our aim is to improve the lives of women in Chicago, especially those who are marginalized. We thought it would be a great idea if the proceeds from our concert were donated to your organization, and if we collected books people may purchase while at the concert for your cause.”

Update: Thank you to the members of Praxilla Femina for a marvelous performance—and to everyone who supported us with a financial contribution or a donation of books.

Praxilla Femina

Dismantling Barriers to Life—Sat., March 11

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Dismantling Barriers to Life:
A speak out on mass incarceration

Saturday, March 11, 12:30–4 pm
First Baptist Congregational
1613 W. Washington Blvd., Chicago (map)

Hear from people directly affected by incarceration, share ideas for action and more at this community event hosted by Cabrini Green Legal Aid, Community Renewal SocietyGrowing HomePrecious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, StoryCorps and the Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois.

Continue reading ‘Dismantling Barriers to Life—Sat., March 11’

Human Trafficking in Women’s Prisons

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Update: Since posting the article below, we’ve learned of a bust of three human traffickers who preyed on women at Lowell Correctional Institution in Florida. It’s the largest women’s prison in the United States and we send books to hundreds of women there every year. Here are two news stories on this human-trafficking operation, which underscore the reality of the problem:

Sex slavers arrested in Orlando for trafficking women from prison, MBI says
Orlando police: Men used newly released LCI prisoners as prostitutes

Guest post by John Meekins*

I had been a corrections officer for several years at one of the largest female prisons in the United States when in 2012 I attended a two-day conference on human trafficking. That was where I realized that human trafficking is a real issue for the inmates at the prison where I work.

Continue reading ‘Human Trafficking in Women’s Prisons’

Looking Back and Looking Forward

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Another way of looking at it: In 2016 we mailed about this many books each and every month.

Last year we mailed 3,901 packages of books and blank journals to women in prison around the country—9,700 or so books in all and 591 blank journals. That’s 13% more than in 2015.

On top of that, our 100% volunteer team worked hard to improve our processes, as well as educate others about the need we help to fill. Last year we:

  • Planned and conducted focus groups with women at Logan Correctional Center and Cook County Jail, thanks to funding by the Illinois Humanities Council and Crossroads Fund. We’re compiling and analyzing our findings now, so watch for our report early this year.
  • Added a quality control step to our process—ensuring that every book selected is the best match possible for a specific woman’s request.
  • Hosted the Chicago premiere of First Degree, a new documentary on prison education. Look for it on PBS this year.

But we couldn’t have done any of this without friends who helped in these and many other ways:

We appreciate everyone who joined us at any of our several community events, including:

  • The reading and discussion with Maya Schenwar and Crystal Laura at Evanston Public Library, in collaboration with CLAIM/Cabrini Green Legal Aid
  • Poetry from the Inside, a poetry reading—featuring poetry by nine of the women we serve—in collaboration with the Poetry Center of Chicago and Free Write Arts & Literacy
  • Tabling at Chicago Zine Fest, Printers Row Lit Fest and Ravenswood ArtWalk
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Maya Schenwar, author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better, and Crystal Laura, author of Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, at Evanston Public Library in March.

And we’re grateful to everyone who attended one of our fundraising events:

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Thanks once again, Eats & Sweets and The Annoyance—and the talented performers at each event—for your generosity!

Finally, we really appreciate our online community, including everyone who follows us on Facebook (30% more followers than last year) and Twitter (53% more followers). We’ve connected with so many terrific people and organizations this way.

Please keep up with us as we aim to do even more in 2017. People in prison  have little or no access to books, and as long as there’s the need, we’re committed to providing the pleasure and power of books.


IMPORTANT: Learn more before donating books
Please check with us before organizing a book drive or putting together a donation of more than a few books from your own library. We are well stocked and storage space is limited.

1,022 packages so far in 2019

Last year we sent 4,852 packages to women, as well as trans and nonbinary people, behind bars across the US—nearly 13,500 books and composition books in all. Big thanks to all our supporters because we couldn’t do it without you! (updated March 18, 2019)

Help us get the most wanted books!

Check out the books we always need
SPOTLIGHT: Urban fiction and true crime

• Shop our Amazon wish list (feel free to buy from the list at other stores)

Donate money quickly and easily

Or send your check or money order to 4511 N. Hermitage Ave., Chicago, IL 60640. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Your gift may be tax-deductible.

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