Who We Are
Chicago Books to Women in Prison is a volunteer collective that distributes paperback books free of charge to people incarcerated in women’s prisons nationwide. We are dedicated to offering women behind bars the opportunity for self-empowerment, education, and entertainment that reading provides.
We are a public 501(c)(3) charity and our EIN is 45-5271700. Your donation is tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.
What We Do
Incarcerated women send us their requests for books directly. We furnish the requested materials from our stock of donated books. We send three books in each package. We also furnish books directly to prison libraries. Our most popular request of all time is a paperback dictionary.
Why We Do It
Reading the letters we receive from women in prison, 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. An article in Third Coast Press describes one woman’s story as follows:
[A] newsletter contributor, Vinette Crowley, a.k.a. “Shorty,” is one woman whose life intersected with the Chicago BWP while she was serving three years and five months for a drug conviction at Pekin 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 BWP 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 BWP 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!’” (Read the full article here)
You Can Help
There are dozens of 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 on our How to Help page.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also stop by 4511 N. Hermitage Avenue (Hermitage and Sunnyside). We’re there every Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. (We’re only two blocks from the Montrose Brown Line stop 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 volunteer.