Archive for the 'News' Category

Don’t miss us at Chicago Zine Fest

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We’re ready for one of our favorite events of the year!

CZF 2019 will take place over three days: Thursday, May 16–Saturday, May 18. Exhibition Day is Saturday, May 18 at Plumbers Union Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd., in the West Loop. In particular, look for us:

Thursday, May 16
Our own Vicki White will be part of this panel, featuring some great zinesters, on the first night of CZF 2019:

Zines + Social Justice Panel
7 pm
DePaul University’s Levan Center
2322 N. Kenmore Ave., Room 100

Saturday, May 18
Stop by and see us outside the reading room. Pick up our free zine brochure and a button. We’ll also be selling a couple of new zines, Bound Struggles (a collection of writing and art by women in prison), blank journals, and more.

All events during CZF weekend are FREE and open to the public.

Learn more about Chicago Zine Fest.

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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

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.

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!

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.

Chicago Premiere of a New Documentary—Sat., October 22

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Saturday, October 22, 2–4 pm
Frederick A. Douglass Branch Library
3353 W. 13th St., Chicago (map)

The expression “sent up the river” was coined by individuals who were sent up the Hudson River to do their time at the infamous Sing Sing Correctional Facility in Ossining, New York. FIRST DEGREE finds hope in this seemingly hopeless place by exploring an unusual prison education program that appears to keep Sing Sing inmates from being sent back up the river after their release. Nationwide, over half of released inmates return to prison within five years, but for the past 14 years, less than 1% of the inmates who earned their college degrees at Sing Sing returned to prison.

Continue reading ‘Chicago Premiere of a New Documentary—Sat., October 22’

Poetry from the Inside—Weds., September 28

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Join us with the Poetry Center of Chicago and Free Write Jail Arts & Literacy for:

Poetry from the Inside:
A Collaborative Reading and Book Drive

Wednesday, September 28, 7–9 pm
Chicago Art Department
1932 S Halsted St., Suite 100 (map)

There will be a reading from several of Free Write’s former students who were previously incarcerated in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center.

The incarcerated women we serve send us many poems, and we’re delighted that acclaimed poets Hannah Gamble and Erika L. Sánchez will read a few this evening: Continue reading ‘Poetry from the Inside—Weds., September 28’

Now a Member of the Chicago Literacy Alliance

CLAWe’ve joined the Chicago Literacy Alliance, an association of more than 90 organizations helping to meet literacy needs for people of all ages and backgrounds.

At Chicago Books to Women in Prison, literacy is the core of what we do. For starters, only about 40% of people in prison have a high school diploma, so the books we send are critical in improving this vital skill. In addition, many women tell us that they hadn’t cared much about reading before prison, but now love it. Many mothers tell us that now they encourage their children to read.

The women we serve also tell us that the books we send enable them to earn a GED or reach another educational goal, improve parenting skills, enhance self-esteem, learn new skills, discover new talents and more—including simply to escape for a while from their oppressive environment. Through books we help incarcerated women improve the quality of their lives, understand their rights and enhance the everyday culture of their institutions. Importantly, it also helps them improve their chances for a successful life after leaving prison.

As part of the Chicago Literacy Alliance, we’re looking forward to opportunities to:
  • Educate other member organizations—including but not limited to those that work with incarcerated people—about the need for our work and the difference we make
  • Network with members to share ideas about outreach, capacity-building, fundraising and other common concerns
  • Collaborate on public activities with member organizations on issues and themes that connect us

We’re delighted to be a member! Learn more about the Chicago Literacy Alliance.

Continue reading ‘Now a Member of the Chicago Literacy Alliance’

Thank You, Crossroads Fund

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We are delighted to announce that Crossroads Fund has awarded us a grant of $4,000 in this year’s Seed Fund program.

This generous funding will be dedicated to general operating costs—enabling us to get many more books in the hands of the women we serve—as well as to special projects to create awareness and inspire action around issues related to our work.

It’s an honor to be one of the many groups that Crossroads Fund supports in working for racial, social and economic justice across a wide range of issues and communities.


WE'LL BE CLOSED—NO DONATIONS Sunday, Sept. 29 & Saturday, Oct. 5

IMPORTANT: Learn more before donating books
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.

3,939 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 October 13, 2019)

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.

Shop our wish list today

Buy books we need online and we pick them up—no shipping fee, no wasteful packaging. (Or buy a gift card if you can’t decide!) Your purchase benefits not just the people we serve, but one of Chicago’s best indy bookstores.

MOST NEEDED NOW: GED review books

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