Who We Are
Chicago Books to Women in Prison is an all-volunteer group that distributes paperback books free of charge to incarcerated people nationwide, focusing on all women and trans/non-binary people. We are dedicated to offering the opportunity for self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides.

Currently we send books to state prisons in Arizona, California, FloridaIllinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio, as well as all federal prisons. We do not send books to jails and other short-term facilities outside Chicago.

We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and our EIN is 45-5271700. All or part of your gift may be tax-deductible as a charitable contribution. Please check with your tax adviser.

What We Do
Incarcerated people send us their requests for books directly. We match each request from our stock of thousands of donated books. We send three books in each package along with a personal note and a new order form so it’s  easy to order again. Our most popular request of all time is a paperback dictionary, but we send a great variety of books every week.

Why We Do It
Reading the letters we receive from the people we serve, one begins to get a sense of the overwhelming need for projects like this one. We hear over and over that rehabilitation is not a priority and prison libraries tend to be dismal, if they exist at all. Here’s one woman’s story:

Vinette Crowley, a.k.a. “Shorty,” is one woman whose life intersected with the Chicago Books to Women in Prison while she was serving three years and five months for a drug conviction at Pekin federal prison camp in Illinois. She is now 45 years old and has two sons and two grandchildren, one born while she “was away” and one born shortly after her release from Pekin last Fall. In her writing, she comes across as vibrant, self-educated and strong-minded—in her own words, “I get on my soapbox, sometimes.”

When she went into prison, she “had no clue about the laws…I got turned on to the CBWP project by a librarian at the prison camp.” For Vinette, law books were the key: “I wrote and requested any and all law books that CBWP could provide me…the books I received helped me to learn the law and to fight my way out of prison 19 months sooner [than] I was sentenced…” She also “turned several of the less fortunate women in Pekin onto the project…and was so happy to have them yell, ‘Shorty, I got the books!’”

You Can Help
There are many ways you can help by giving your time, books or a monetary contribution. We especially welcome money for postage, which is our largest expense. Learn more.

Contact Us
Email us at chicagobwp@gmail.com. You can also stop by 4511 N. Hermitage Avenue (Hermitage and Sunnyside) every Saturday and Sunday from 2 to 5 pm. (We’re only two blocks from the Montrose Brown Line station and there is plenty of free street parking.) Please get in touch with us if you have paperback books and other materials you’d like to drop off or if you would like to help in other ways.

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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.

2,317 packages so far in 2019

Last year we sent 4,852 packages to women and trans people locked up across the country—nearly 13,500 books and composition books in all. Big thanks to all our supporters because we couldn’t do it without you! (updated June 17, 2019)

Shop our wish list at Women & Children First!

Buy online books we really need and we’ll pick them up—no shipping fee, no wasteful packaging. And your purchase benefits not just the people we serve, but one of Chicago’s best independent bookstores.

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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