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Wrapping up 2020

For half the year, from mid-March to mid-September, we had to close due to COVID-19. After reopening, we had to cut the number of hours per week and the number of volunteers per shift. With lockdowns prevalent in prisons across the country, books are both harder to come by for those inside and needed more than ever.

Will you please send me some books to read? At FCI Aliceville, we are currently quarantined—only out of our cells 1 hour a day to shower and use phones.

Melissa in Alabama

This year, we mailed 1,964 orders of books and composition books to women and trans people in prisons across the country. In addition, in the spring we provided 1,600 sets of composition books, crayon packs, and folders to the women at Logan Correctional Center in Illinois. And in August, October, and December, we made three large bulk deliveries to the women’s division of Cook County Jail in Chicago—approximately 600 books and 700 composition books in all.

They have closed our library here at Folsom Women’s Facility due to
COVID-19.

Alondra in California

One bright spot amid the challenges has been adapting our processes in creative ways to help us do more within our current restraints. And watch for more news about how we plan to do more in providing mutual aid to people in prison in 2021 and beyond.

Thank you to everyone who’s been with us in one way or the other in this difficult year—volunteering, donating money or books, amplifying us on social media, and more. The challenges and uncertainties remain, of course, and we hope you’ll continue your support.

I pray all is well with each of you and your families. Thank you for caring about us in prison all these years.

Irma in florida

Check us out at Chicago Zine Fest—virtually!

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This year, Chicago Zine Fest is all online—you know why!—and we’re delighted to participate again in this celebration of small press and independent publishers. We’re featuring three zines at #CZF2020 and all are available at our online store. (Our store is still open even though Chicago Zine Fest is over.)

AllThree

  • Bound Struggles A collection of poetry, stories, essays, and drawings by incarcerated women across the country, featuring an introduction by Chicago-based prison abolitionist Monica Cosby. 50 pages; 7″ x 9″; black and white.
  • Stuff Found in Books #1 Since most of our books are donated, we find some interesting things tucked between the pages. Take a look at a small selection in this zine. 36 pages, including front and back covers; quarter-size; full color.
  • Library Stories #1—Sometimes we’re asked, Aren’t there libraries in prison? See some of the notes we often get on the extremely limited access to books in prison. 40 pages, including front and back covers; quarter-size; black and white.

Shop for zines at our online store.

 

Reopened and remaining careful with coronavirus concerns

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In this age of COVID-19, to protect the health of volunteers and the greater community, we’re closed in compliance with the stay-at-home order for Illinois. 

We’re keeping up with mail and urgent tasks, but please, no drop-off book donations. If you would like to mail us books, email us first at chicagobwp@gmail.com. 

Questions? Please ask. Thanks for your ongoing support and stay safe.

Update in September: We’re back to fulfilling requests for books and composition books from women and trans people locked up across the country, but with greatly reduced capacity due to the need for social distancing, limited access to our space, and other precautions. We still ask that you check with us before donating books. Thank you for your continued support at this time.

Announcing our new online wish list

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Celebrate #IndependentBookstoreDay with us each and every day!
Bye bye A****n. Welcome to our online wish list at Women and Children First.
Buy the books we need, we’ll pick ’em up—no shipping fee, no wasteful packaging. Thanks for shopping at one of Chicago’s best indy bookstores!

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.

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’

Laughs Unlocked benefit show—Tues., April 5

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Prison is no laughing matter—but we’ll make an exception this time because some of the best improvisors in Chicago are throwing us a benefit!

In this two-act show they’ll create scenes based on stories from Dionna Griffin-Irons. Griffin-Irons, who was formerly incarcerated, is a writer, alumna of Second City, and current Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the legendary comedy theatre. Continue reading ‘Laughs Unlocked benefit show—Tues., April 5’

Gift from the DaVita Way of Giving

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Left to right: Carmen Berry, Facility Administrator; Bonnie Plude, Dietitian; Valerie Cox, Administrative Assistant; Vicki White and Betsy Nore, CBWP; Tanya DePeiza, Social Worker; and Aona Anderson, RN

Recently we were honored with a gift of $1,000 from the DaVita Dialysis Center in Country Club Hills, Illinois. DaVita Healthcare Partners, Inc. is a leading provider of kidney care services. Through the annual DaVita Way of Giving, DaVita clinical facilities across the country are empowered to choose non-profit organizations in their communities to receive charitable contributions.

We receive hundreds of letters each month from incarcerated women requesting books and blank journals. As word spreads and the need continues to grow, the volume of letters increases too. This generous donation will let us mail hundreds of more packages of books and blank journals more quickly.

Thank you to everyone at DaVita on behalf of the women we serve.


128 packages so far in 2021!

That’s about 250 books and composition books in all to women and trans people locked up across the country. (In 2020—with our capacity drastically cut due to COVID-19 precautions—we sent 1,964 packages. In 2019, we sent 5,117 packages; in 2018, 4,852.) Big, big thanks to all our supporters because we couldn’t do it without you, especially in this most difficult time. (January 18, 2021)

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.

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