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Goodbye, 2015—Hello, 2016

ThankYouHeart

Amy K. feels the same way we do.

Last year we mailed 3,086 packages of books—9,200 or so books in all—and 361 blank journals. That’s 19% more than in 2014! We reached nearly 2,500 individual women in 53 prisons, including the largest women’s prison in the country and several men’s prisons where transwomen are incarcerated.

We’re impressed ourselves. But we want to share the credit.

As always, our 100% volunteer team works constantly to seek new resources and improve our processes so we can do more.

This year, for example, we received a Crossroads Fund Seed Fund grant. We implemented a database to track mailings, collect data and better manage our backlog. And we took an important step in obtaining our 501(c)(3) IRS determination as a public charity.

But we couldn’t have done any of this without friends who helped in many ways, including:

  • Donating money for postage and rent (postage is about 82% of our total budget and rising as we aim to serve even more women)
  • Mailing or dropping off books and blank journals
  • Purchasing special requests from our Amazon Wish List
  • Attending one of our three community events

    CrystalColette

    Crystal Laura, author of Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline, at Women & Children First in March; Colette Payne of CLAIM (Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers) at After-Words Books in September.

And we’re grateful for our community, including everyone who follows us on:

  • Facebook (50% more followers than last year)
  • Twitter (65% more followers)
  • Our blog (subscribe at the top right) and website (88% more visitors)

Please keep up with us in 2016 as we provide more women with the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides. People in prison  have little or no access to books. So as long as there is the need, we’re committed to providing the pleasure and power of books.

CBWP Visits a Class on OITNB

searchEarly this month we were invited to North Central College to visit the class Orange is the New Black: The Sociopolitical Realities of Women’s Incarceration Experiences. Taught by Dr. Stephen Maynard Caliendo and Dr. Jennifer Keys, and grounded in a wide range of research on incarceration, this unique course explores a number of complex themes that have come up in the show. In particular, it “critically examines the inner workings of the prison industrial complex and the ways in which it controls and regulates inmates’ daily lives.”

An issue that affects incarcerated women every day is the freedom to read. Or lack thereof. One of our volunteers discussed with the class how we help meet the need and desire for books of all kinds (as well as blank journals) when there is little or no access to a variety of current reading material. It was a pleasure to share our work—including what women tell us about the importance of books, the most popular genres and other insights about what matters to the women we serve, and the challenges we face—with this thoughtful, engaged group.

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Chicago friends: Would your class, church or community organization like a guest speaker from Chicago Books to Women in Prison? Just write us at chicagobwp@gmail.com.

New Volunteers: Next Orientation is Sunday, October 25

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Jess in Ohio made us smile with her recent order. And you can brighten the lives of the women who receive the thousands of books and blank journals we send each year. Join us for our next new volunteer orientation—led by one of our experienced volunteers—Sunday, October 25, 1–2 p.m., right before our regular 2–5 p.m. work session. Get the details here.

This Sunday already booked? Plan now to join us for the Sunday, November 29 orientation. Or learn how you can get involved in other ways. You know where to find us!

Support the Prison Yoga Project

pyp-logoWe receive many requests for yoga books from the women we serve, and one of the best we’ve seen is Yoga: A Path for Healing and Recovery, published by the Prison Yoga Project. We’re grateful for the free books they’ve sent us.

The Prison Yoga Project also conducts classes and instructor training in prisons across the country. One incarcerated person said, “With the barrage of negativity in prisons, they are unyielding breeding grounds for intense suffering, chaos, noise, overcrowding, violence, ineffective medical care and poor food. But occasionally, every so often, friendship, kindness, compassion and programs of meaningful substance come along. The Yoga program is a life-sustaining and meaningful one that I nurture and value because it is not only positive, it supports my growth and success.”

Help the Prison Yoga Project continue and do even more. They have 20 days remaining in their ambitious Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign. The Indiegogo campaign is over, but you can still help. Please support them as you are able.

New Volunteers: Next Orientation is Sunday, September 27

Kylie in Indiana heard about us from a friend and sent us this wonderful note along with her first order for books:

Thank You drawing

Come help make a difference with us—one package of books at a time. Join us for our next new volunteer orientation, led by one of our experienced volunteers, Sunday, September 27, 1–2 p.m., right before our regular 2–5 p.m. work session. Get the details here.

Can’t make it this Sunday? Plan now to join us for the Sunday, October 25 orientation. Or learn how you can get involved in other ways. See you soon!

Up in Here book discussion—Fri., June 5 at City Lit Books

Join us at City Lit Books in welcoming Mark Dostert to discuss his debut memoir, Up in Here: Jailing Kids on Chicago’s Other Side, which chronicles his experiences as a counselor at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center, Chicago’s infamous 500-cell juvenile jail, known as the Audy Home.

Mark will be in conversation with Alex Kotlowitz, author of There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America. We’re looking forward to a provocative dialogue. Don’t miss it!

Friday, June 5, 6:30 p.m.
CityLit Books
2523 N. Kedzie Ave., Chicago

UpInHere     ThereAreNoChildrenHere

Learn more on the City Lit event page.

New Volunteers: Next Orientation is Sunday, May 3

Exciting things are happening at Chicago Books to Women in Prison and we’d love for you to be a part of it all.

Join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers—Sunday, May 3, 1–2 p.m., right before our regular 2–5 p.m. work session. Get the details here. (Note that this is a week later than our usual last-Sunday-of-the-month schedule.)

Learn how you can make a personal, powerful difference in the lives of Rebecca H. and other incarcerated women.

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New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, February 22

It may be cold outside, but you’ll find a warm atmosphere as a volunteer with Chicago Books to Women in Prison. It’s such a simple thing we do—selecting and sending books in response to requests we receive in the mail—and very rewarding.

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Continue reading ‘New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, February 22’

Snow Day

SnowyBranchesAccording to the latest weather bulletin, we could be getting 18 inches of snow by tonight, so we’ll take a rare day off for safety’s sake.

We’ll be open next week as usual for volunteers and donation drop-offs.

New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, January 25

Please join us for our next orientation session, led by one of our experienced volunteers, this Sunday, January 25, 1–2 p.m. Then stay for our regular 2–5 p.m. work session. Get the details here. Continue reading ‘New Volunteers: Orientation this Sunday, January 25’


891 packages so far in 2021

Packages carrying books of all kinds and composition books 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. (updated June 14, 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.

Follow us on Twitter

  • RT @CTCIPInitiative: Women are housed in prisons an average of 160 miles away from their children & men are an average of 100 miles away, e… 7 hours ago
  • RT @keribla: I'd been in jail for 7 months when the guards stormed our cells one night after dinner, tearing our photos & letters from home… 7 hours ago
  • RT @noname: this month @NonameBooks cooperative is sending 715 books to our incarcerated book club members! please visit our book wishlist… 17 hours ago

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