Donate Comics, Manga, and Drawing Books to People Who Really Want Them

Prison cells 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.

Frequent Requests

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

State Name Website Serves
AZ Read Between The Bars Program AZ only
CA Books for Prisoners Program All US states except MA
CA Prison Library Project Program All US states except MA
CA Prisoners Literature Project Program All US states except OR, MA and TX
DC Books to Prisons Project Program All US States except New England, IL, NJ, NY, OH, OR, PA, WA, WI.
FL Open Books Prison Book Project Program FL only
IL Chicago Books to Women in Prison Program AZ, CA, CT, FL, IL, IN, KY, MS, MO, and OH
IL Reading Reduces Recidivism prison libraries in IL, does not send books to prisoners directly
IL Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners Project Program IL
IL Liberation Library youth in 3 facilities in IL (Kewanee, Perre Marquette, and Harrisburg)
IN Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project Program AR, IN, IA, KS, KY, MN, MO, NE, ND, OH, OK, SD, TN, and WI
KY Louisville Books to Prisoners Program KY state and federal facilities
LA Louisiana Books 2 Prisoners Program AL, AR, LA, MS. Women and LA prisoners are prioritized.
MA Prison Book Program – Quincy All US states except CA, IL, MI, MD, NV, and TX
MI Unitarian Universalist Ann Arbor Prison Books Program Select MI institutions only
MN Women’s Prison Book Project Program All US states except CT, FL, IL, IN, MA, MI, MS, OH, OR, and PA
MS Big House Books Program Mississippi only
NC Tranzmission GLBTQI inmates around the country
NC Asheville Prison Books Program Program NC, SC
NC Prison Books Collective Program AL and NC
NY Ithaca College Books Thru Bars NY
NY NYC Books Through Bars Program All US states except AL, FL, LA, MA, MI, MS, NC, OH, and PA with a priority on NY.
OH Athens Books to Prisoners OH
OR Portland Books to Prisoners Program All US states except MA
PA Book ‘Em Program PA only
PA Books Through Bars, Philadelphia PA, NJ, NY, DE, MD, VA, and WV
RI Providence Books Through Bars Program All US states
TX Inside Books Program TX only
WA Olympia Books to Prisoners Program Contact organization
WA Books to Prisoners – Seattle All US states except CA and MA
WI LGBT Books to Prisoners Program LGBTQ prisoners in all states except TX
WI Wisconsin Books to Prisoners Program WI only
WV Appalachian Prison Book Project Program KY, MD, OH, TN, VA, WV