One of the front lines in the fight for First Amendment rights was in prisons around the country in 2018. CBLDF tried to cover these news stories, as lists of censored works emerged, or lawsuits were filed, or legislation overturned. No matter what individuals feel about the mass incarceration problem in this country, it is clear that population in America most likely to experience censorship, is the incarcerated. It is also clear, that in countless studies, reading and education have been shown to be essential in the effort to reduce recidivism.
Daniel Schaffer, one of the organizers for Books Through Bars in NYC, was kind enough to spend some time discussing the impact donating comics can have to organizations like his. Books Through Bars is a 100% volunteer based organization that fields book requests from inmates all over the country, and mails donated books to prisoners free of charge.
Schaffer spoke about the power of comics for all reading levels and age ranges, “For some people comic books are an entrance to reading, but others are literate and extremely well-read and they like the escapism.” He mentioned that after sending 20 comics to someone inside, and he received a thank you note back that said that the prisoner kept rereading them because the pictures were so beautiful. Schaffer also said that when they do get an opportunity to send a package full of comics to a facility, all of a sudden they will start receiving requests from other inmates at the facility for more, and it is clear that the people receiving these graphic novels are passing them around and passing around the information for the nonprofit that supplied them too.
When asked what type of requests they get most frequently, Schaffer mentioned that people usually request characters like Batman, Daredevil, Spawn, etc. rather than specific volume titles like The Killing Joke. He also suggested that it would be nice if people donated LGBTQIA specific comics and graphic novels, because they get requests for queer-positive media, and those sort of comics aren’t necessarily on hand. The other type of books they can’t seem to get enough donations of are How to Draw books. How to Draw Portraits and How to Draw People are popular requests, but all drawing books and all How-To’s are very common requests for inmates.
When thinking about which comics should get donated, check with the organization’s donation page for their specific guidelines, but avoid hardcovers, and worn out books that aren’t holding up to well. Used is great, but gently used is the best. Also a great suggestion from a similar organization, said consider donating some money along with your box of books to help with the shipping costs these nonprofits pay for. They suggested just $35 with each box of books would go a long way to making sure your books made it into the hands of the people who would most appreciate them.
Check out the table below to see if there’s an organization near you that would love your old graphic novels, how to cartoon texts, and manga. Also, all the organizations listed below except monetary donation to help with shipping and packing costs, and many of them have wishlists to help guide people into what sort of books are often requested. The number one request is the same in every organization: dictionaries. It can mean a world of difference to someone who can’t access the library or the internet whenever they want to be able to look up words while in their cell.
Books To Prison Inmates Programs
|Read Between The Bars Program
|Books for Prisoners Program
|All US states except MA
|Prison Library Project Program
|All US states except MA
|Prisoners Literature Project Program
|All US states except OR, MA and TX
|Books to Prisons Project Program
|All US States except New England, IL, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, WA, WI.
|Open Books Prison Book Project Program
|Chicago Books to Women in Prison Program
|AZ, CA, CT, FL, IL, IN, KY, MS, MO, and OH
|Reading Reduces Recidivism
|prison libraries in IL, does not send books to prisoners directly
|Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners Project Program
|youth in 3 facilities in IL (Kewanee, Perre Marquette, and Harrisburg)
|Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project Program
|AR, IN, IA, KS, KY, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, OK, SD, TN, and WI
|Louisville Books to Prisoners Program
|KY state and federal facilities
|Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners Program
|AL, AR, LA, MS. Women and LA prisoners are prioritized.
|Prison Book Program – Quincy
|All US states except CA, IL, MI, MD, NV, and TX
|Unitarian Universalist Ann Arbor Prison Books Program
|Select MI institutions only
|Women’s Prison Book Project Program
|All US states except CT, FL, IL, IN, MA, MI, MS, OH, OR, and PA
|Big House Books Program
|GLBTQI inmates around the country
|Asheville Prison Books Program Program
|Prison Books Collective Program
|AL and NC
|Ithaca College Books Thru Bars
|NYC Books Through Bars Program
|All US states except AL, FL, LA, MA, MI, MS, NC, OH, and PA with a priority on NY.
|Athens Books to Prisoners
|Portland Books to Prisoners Program
|All US states except MA
|Book ‘Em Program
|Books Through Bars, Philadelphia
|PA, NJ, NY, DE, MD, VA, and WV
|Providence Books Through Bars Program
|All US states
|Inside Books Program
|Olympia Books to Prisoners Program
|Books to Prisoners – Seattle
|All US states except CA and MA
|LGBT Books to Prisoners Program
|LGBTQ prisoners in all states except TX
|Wisconsin Books to Prisoners Program
|Appalachian Prison Book Project Program
|KY, MD, OH, TN, VA, WV