Published January 1, 2016
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
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.
Early 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.
Chicago friends: Would your class, church or community organization like a guest speaker from Chicago Books to Women in Prison? Just write us at email@example.com.
Published December 1, 2015
Tags: #GivingTuesday, fundraising
So far this year we’ve mailed 3,000 packages of books and blank journals—already more than last year’s total!—with a month to go in 2015.
As our reach grows, so does the number of requests for books. Right now more than 500 letters are waiting for a response.
We want to get as many books as possible in the hands of incarcerated women before the end of the year. We have the books, we have the volunteers—we’re limited only by postage costs and our budget.
Please help on this global day of giving back … or any day. Every $10 donated will allow us to mail three more packages!
Simply click the PayPal button at the right. Or mail a check to Chicago Books to Women in Prison, 4511 N. Hermitage Ave., Chicago IL 60640.
Thank you on behalf of the women we serve!
Meet author Maya Schenwar, a good friend of Chicago Books to Women in Prison, and join the discussion.
Locked Down, Locked Out looks at how prison tears families and communities apart, creating a ripple effect that touches every corner of our society. Through the stories of prisoners and their families, as well as her own family’s experience of her sister’s incarceration, Schenwar shows how the institution that locks up 2.3 million Americans—and decimates poor communities of color—is shredding the ties that, if nurtured, could foster real collective safety.
Plan now to attend this free book talk and discussion.
Sunday, November 22, 12:30 p.m.
Unitarian Church of Evanston
1330 Ridge Avenue (map)
(parking lot and entrance on Greenwood)
For more information, call 847-864-1330 or visit www.ucevanston.org.
Published October 20, 2015
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!
Published September 27, 2015
We 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.
Published September 24, 2015
Tags: Fourth & Sycamore
We’re pleased to share a recent interview with David Nilsen, editor and book critic for Fourth & Sycamore, an Ohio library’s literary journal. We made a point of featuring what we hear from the women we serve—something we make a priority.
And if you’re looking for something good to read, or to recommend to friends and family who wonder why you care about helping people in prison, see the list of books we like at the end.
Published September 22, 2015
Kylie in Indiana heard about us from a friend and sent us this wonderful note along with her first order for books:
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!
Published September 1, 2015
Tuesday, September 15 we’ll welcome friends from CLAIM (Chicago Legal Advocacy for Incarcerated Mothers) to Change in Action: People & Prisons.
Check out these videos created by the talented students in Laurie Little’s Documenting Social Injustice class at Columbia College Chicago.
CLAIM PSA 2014
CLAIM Mother’s Day Rally 2013
This fall Chicago Books to Women in Prison will be collaborating with DocSocIn students. Stay tuned for more!
Hear two formerly incarcerated women speak on the importance of books during their time in prison.
− Learn how Chicago organizations are responding to prison issues
− Engage in discussion with community leaders and the formerly incarcerated
− Discover the wide range of ways you can become involved
Change in Action: People & Prisons
Tuesday, September 15, 6:30 p.m.
After-Words New and Used Books
23 E. Illinois St., Chicago
One block south of the Grand (Red Line) station
Parking can be found one block east at 430 N. Rush St.
Food and drinks will be served
In collaboration with our friends
− Black and Pink
− CLAIM (Chicago Legal Advocacy to Incarcerated Mothers) with Visible Voices
− Community Renewal Society with F.O.R.C.E
− Liberation Library
Let us know you’re coming on the Facebook event page.
Download the event flyer.