Archive for the 'Press Release' Category

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’

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’

Prison Boom: an Update on the Facts

After remaining steady for almost 100 years, imprisonment rates increased from 111 in 1974 to nearly 500 by 2000; anti-prison activist refer to this surge as the ‘prison boom’. Currently, 1.5 million people are in prison and more than 7 million are under some form of correctional control. Not only this 4.5 million people have been to prison at some point in their lives and are now back in their communities suffering from a variety of legalized discrimination. And it’s not only the scale of imprisonment, but also the color. Blacks are six times more likely than whites to be imprisoned and Latinos are twice as likely as whites to be imprisoned. And while racial disparity in imprisonment has been a social reality since emancipation, the prison boom increases the impact of this disparity. In addition to all of this, between 1974 and 1996, women’s chances of going to prison at some point during their lives increased 6 times; men’s increased 3 times during the same period. As a result, while in 1980, only 4% of prisoners were women, by 2000, more than 7% Black women and white men have nearly the same chances of serving time: 3.6% and 4.4% respectively.

Bound Struggles Release Party to Connect Issues of Incarceration, Violence Against Women

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jack Slowriver
chicagobwp@hotmail. com

Chicago Books to Women in Prison (CBWP) will release a special edition of its prisoner-authored publication Bound Struggles at a party and performance showcase on Saturday, June 23rd, 2007, 6-9 PM, at Mercury Café, 1505 W. Chicago Avenue, Chicago.

This performance will be the culmination of a six-month project with formerly and currently incarcerated women, made possible by grant support from Chicago Foundation for Women. This event is also hoped to raise funds and raise awareness for the “No Child Left Behind Bars” campaign organized by Critical Resistance Chicago.

Bound Struggles is dedicated to bringing the voices of women in prison into the public arena and building solidarity/supportive connections with readers/writers/organizations on the outside; past issues have featured writing and artwork on themes including education, family, health, and activism. The sixth issue, to be released on June 23rd, will address the connections between violence against women and incarceration of women in Illinois.

About CBWP:
Chicago Books to Women in Prison is a volunteer collective working since 2003 to distribute books free of charge to women in prison nationwide. We are dedicated to offering women behind bars the opportunities for self-empowerment, education, and entertainment that reading provides. More information can be found at http://chicagobwp.org.

About Critical Resistance:
Critical Resistance seeks to build an international movement to end the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. Critical Resistance’s vision is the creation of genuinely safe, healthy communities that respond to harm without relying on prisons and punishment.


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