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How to Start a Prison Book Program
bvthe Books Through Bars Collective
rbvisod October 2002




How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective

The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, With an prisoner population increasing every year, prison construction has become one of America's fastest growing industries. An outsider could well wonder bow this could be, in a nation that considers itself the home of democracy and the leader of the "free worl d. " Lying jusr underneath the shiny veneer of high-tech wizardry and massive corporate wealth is a cavernous penal system that for all intents and purposes has abandoned any notion of rehabilitation or correction. And if ODe probes deeper, all the tortures, abuses cruel and unusual punishments so readily cited by the U.S. as human ri gbts violations in ether countries can be found right here at home, funded with our tax dollars, While politicians continue to handcuff themselves to the get-tough-on-crime bandwagon, an increasing number of -. progressive voices are pointing out that the bandwagon is careening down a dead-end road. When "getting tough" simply means longer jail semences without a thought towards education and rehabilitation, prisons become a breeding ground for tougher criminals ..This de facto war on the poor also has to allow loopholes for white coUar criminals. Try suggesting a mandatory death sentence for any elected official convicted of a felony, and these same politicians suddenly don't want to be so tough. The grea majority of the nation's prisoners are serving less than life sentences, which means that at some point in the future they will be back out in our midst. For all the talk of a "kinder, gentler nation " society reaps what it sows. Just because mainstream public attention ignores the monsters being created within our prisons. we :,eeC. not blindly follow suit. Indeed. we can rake ~: cpor; ourselves to reach in through the bars with 2 helping band, asserting that those


incarcerated are also human beings, worthy of dignity and respect.

Introd ucti on
This manual is designed to help the reader start and maintain a prison book program. It is based on the experiences of Books Through Bars, a Philadelphia based group in existence since 1991. An 18-ruinate vi deo documentary entitled "Book Through Bars" was produced in 1997 in conjunction with Scribe Video's Community Visions Program. The video explores the importance of sending books to prisoners, This manual' explains in detail how it is done and what is needed to do it. The flow chart diagram on the following page depicts how a prison book program works. Each part of the diagram has its own section in the text explaining the details related to that particular component ofthe operation. The text is designed to be read sequentially the first time, although it is not essential to do so. After gaining a basic familiarity, one can skip around to review relevant sections, using the flow chart to see where they are, and the table of contents to find the page number. The information presented in this manual is based on Books Through Bars years of experience ..It is Dot meant to be taken as an absolute, but as friendly advice to be considered when devising your own policies and procedures. The second person "you" is.adopted only for grammatical convenience. It is assumed that several persons will be taking part in an organization's decision making and administration. Our mission statement is in Appendix 1. Feel free to plagiarize, adapt or ignore it when writing your own,


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective

Table of Contents
I. Raw Materials
A. Space B. Letters From Prisoners C. Books D. Volunteers E. Publisher/Bookstore Affiliation F. Packing Materials G. Stamps L Weizhina'-' b J. Postage K. Transporting to the Post Office

IV. Peripheral Details
A. Resource Information B ...Contacts with Other Groups c.. ngoing Correspondence with O Selected Prisoners D. Specialization E. Record Keeping F. Prison Advisory Board

II. Finances
A. Grants and Foundations B. Donations from Individuals and Groups C. Book Sales D. Fund-raisers E. In Kind Donations

V. Averting Disasters


III. The Process
A. Reading Letters B. Sorting Letters C. Selecting Books D. Checking Restrictions E. Packing Books F. Form Letter G. Addressing and Labeling H. Sealing the Package

A. Crisis # 1 - Storage Space Overflow B. Crisis #2 - Backlog of Requests C. Crisis #3 - Departure of Key Person D. Crisis #4 - Funding Dries Up

1.. Books Through Bars Mission Statement 2. Sample FOll.11 Letter


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How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective Basements are also prone to i!~g, which ruins any books stored directJ),i"Cll11hBfloor. Of concern when using attics is the number of steps one must negotiate to get to them. Remember you will be bringing thousands of books into your space and carrying hundreds of packages out. Not an insurmountable problem with an attic, but one to carefully evaluate when selecting a site. Running water and a refrigerator are not required in the room or rooms you set up in. Access to a bathroom is handy. It can be down a hallway or at the other end of a warehouse. Trying to get by with using a bedroom or living room is not recommended. Incoming books take on a life of their own. Like kudzu all an open. hillside, piles of books will accumulate and cover every desk, shelf cabinet, table, chair and anything else with a at surface, including the floor. . With an adequate budget its possible to lease 1;1 space, but paying rent is generally too large a burden for a book program Nst getting started. While a location need not be permanent, you can avoid complications by conducting all your correspondence from a post office box, which keeps your address the same, regardless ofwbere you move.

I. The Raw Materials
A prison book program requires some amount of indoor space for both storage and packing. Ata bare minimum, you will need a place at least as large as a garage to start. You will also need lots of shelves of whatever type you can find. Books stacked vertically soon become amorphous piles of chaos. Cinder blocks and boards are the old standby for dirt cheap shelving .. Some of the places to investigate for usable space are churches, bookstores, community centers, libraries, schools, and nearby warehouses. Explain to those you contact what you are setting out to do and the type of space you need. Ideally they will be interested not only in providing the space, but also in supplying some of the peop le to get involved in the project. Also check with any property owners you know who may have vacant areas in their buildings. Your first home need not be permanent, Since a book mailing operation requires no major structural remodeling, or special electrical or plumbing modifications, it is relatively inexpensive to move out of one spot and set up shop at a Dew location. Security is a minimal concern as long as you keep tight control on your stamps and scale. Lf anyone steals books from you, figure that if they got caught and convicted, you'd be sending them books anyway, so you have basically saved on the postage. Bear in mind that the space will need to be accessible by many people often at odd hours, An area in a private residence is not well suited to this type of set up unless it has its own entrance ..Beware of damp, stuffy basements. Books will readily mildew, particularly in the summertime. It is possible to make such basements usable with proper ventilation.

B. Letters from Prisoners
How do prisoners find out you exist? When providing a free service that's much in demand, the advertising tends to take care of itself. Once the word is out on the prison grapevine it's just a matter of time before you'll be flooded with requests. Probably the best way to get going is to contact an existing prison book program, and have them forward to you some of their requests from prisons in your geographic area. If you do this, be sure to tell the prisoners how you received their request so they won't feel like the other program forgot about them. If you don't think you can fill the requests as quickly as the other program would fill them, let them know, If you are anxious to get the floodgates roaring, simply notify the o~~ prison book


How to Start a Prison Bock Program by the Books Through Bars Collective programs of your existence and tell them to pass the word along. Make sure you have a large mailbox. remaindered books, but in most prisons they are not a problem. People Involved in Journalism - Literary critics.college professors, and editors of magazines, journals and newsletters are often bombarded by publishers with advance copies, also called "review copies" of new books, and may be glad to pass a large proportion of them on to you. Donations from, Individuals and Groups ~ By putting out the word that you accept donated books in order to send them to prisoners, you will be contacted by various individuals and groups with books to donate. It is easier to facilitate accepting these donations if you have access to some type of vehicle. However, this is not a requirement, and you can simply tell interested parties that they will need to drop off their donations at a specified time and place. Try to make a preliminary evaluation of book donations over the phone. If the described titles and subjects, or condition of the books are not what you currently need, this will save an unnecessary trip. Schools - Schools of all types can be a. valuable source of books. Community college and university students and professors will often coordinate book drives. High school and middle school students will often do the same. Even if they don't organize book drives for you, many college students will donate textbooks that they are not able to sen back to their campus bookstore. Middle schools and high schools will sometimes donate textbooks that they will no longer use in the classroom. Drop Off Boxes - Contact local religious groups and activist organizations to see if they' 11 let you set up a box in their meeting space. Try to find one or two centrally located and public spaces at which book donations can be dropped off at anytime. Book Banks - Your town might operate something like Philadelphia's Book Bank. The Book Bank is open, several dal~a week, to teachers and representati ves o"'f ommuni ty c

C. Books
Most if not all of the books you take in can be gotten for free. It is not difficult to build up a network of supply lines which will soon have you flooded with more books than you have the resources to sort, store, or pay the postage to send out. At that point your concern will be quality over quantity. Used bookstores - Build a friendly relationship with the used book stores in your area. Besides letting you cart off their overstocks, they can refer other groups or individuals who have books to your

organizati on.
Libraries ~Public libraries often clean out their unpopular titles ..Once they know you, and are familiar with your work, you can many times get first pick at the books they are liquidating. Bear in mind that the majority of a library's stock is hardback, which cannot he sent to some prisons: Do not shun all hardbacks. Many prisons, especially those in Texas, will accept them. Publishers ~Contact small and/or alternative publishers, particularly ones in your area. Books from a publisher's retail inventory stopk that fall off a shelf, or get crushed under a pile and show even slight damage cannot be sold as brand new. Because the laws of gravity apply to the print trade as equally as to the rest of us, publishers are constantly accumulating damaged books and will often donate them to you on an ongoing basis. Besides damaged inventory publishers have "remaindered" stock. When a more copies of-a title are printed than the retail market demands, eventually the excess is disposed of at below the listed price. To ensure that they are not then resold bya third party at full price, the front cover is usually all or partially cut off. Some prisons do not accept

How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective organizations. It is a valuable source ofhigb scboollevel textbooks. Types of Books To facilitate finding books for specific requests, it is advisable to use some system to sort and categorize the books you have. However, unlike a library your stock is always changing, so the benefit of devising too complicated a filing system has diminishing returns. Alphabetizing books within a section isn't generally worth the bother. It takes far too much time and with the high turnover of books coming and going, you'll have enough to do just keeping your inventory separated into subject categories. Books Through Bars Uses These Categories: • African American Studies, • Anthropology/Archaeology, • Art, • Asian Studies, • Auto/biography, • Business/Economics, • Cornie Books, • Computers, • Ecology, • Foreign Language, • General FictionINovels, • Grammar/Composition, • Greek and Roman History, • Health, • History, US and World, • HN/AIDS, • Horror • Latin American Studies • LGBT Studies, • Literature/Classics, • Math and Science, • Middle East Studies, ative American Studies, • Philosophy • Poetry, • Popular Fiction, • Politics, • Psychology, • Puzzles/Games • Reference, • Religion, • Romance, • Science Fiction • Self-help, • Social Issues/Activism • Sociology/Psychology • Thrillers, • True Crime, • Westerns, • Women's Studies. A few notes based 011 our experience: Take in every dictionary you can get your hands on-from big fat unabridged volumes to slim little grade school paperbacks. Your all time most requested book wilJ be a dictionary and you will consequently have a chronic shortage of them, so stock up whenever the ~ opportunity presents itself. ,( Westerns are the cowboy themed novels by Louis L'Amor and others. These are separated from FictionINovels because prisoners often specifically request westerns. The popular fiction category is for current name authors such as John Grisham, Dean Koontz, Stephen King and Danielle Steele. This stuff makes the rounds inside prisons and seems to be as widely enjoyed there as on the outside. You will get specific requests by title for many of these books. The reason for making popular fiction a separate category from general fiction/novels is because there's a higher turnover and it makes it easier to find om iftbat one last Dean Koontz is still around 'without poking through all the Faulkner. Allende. Vonnegut and Doctorow on the shelves. It also saves you from having to debate exactly what genre Stephen King should be considered. You might find that) au accumulate stacks of the Harlequin Romance series of novels or similar spin-offs. If ratings were given for bow much a reader's social consciousness is raised,


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective individuals who can put a fair amount of time into the project. and a good flow of casual help whose involvement is on a more short term or occasional basis. Books Through Bars consists of a collective of 7~10 people in addition to a constantly changing vo lunteer pool. Some vol unteers will want to help out only once, while others will want to pack books several times each month. The collective participates i:n decision-making and book distribution while also assuming responsibility for a1l a dmini strati ve tasks. Without the assistance of a group. tasks can quickly overwhelm one OT two people. no matter how dedicated they may be. Good sources of volunteers are progressive political activist groups, churches, service organizations, fraternities, book clubs and schools. Books Through Bars has found that volunteer retention is highest. when the group designates a collective member to welcome and orient new volunteers as they arrive. Have a sign in book to collect names and contact information from volunteers .. You may occasionally want to contact people about special packing opportunities, book saJes or events. You may be contacted by a fanner prisoner who received books from you or a similar organization while they were incarcerated. This is an excellent opportunity to get feedback on your efforts, allow Someone to show their gratitude, and add another volunteer with an especially valuable perspective to your efforts .. To safeguard OUI program from any accusation of passing on contraband we do not allow friends or family of inmates to bring books to send to the people they know on the inside ..They are welcome to select books from the shelves to send and can accept their book donations to send to other inmates.

these books would have a negative score, due to the prevalent racial, sexual, and socio-economic stereotypes. The fact that you tend to amass so many of these books when accepting donations proves they are the epitome of genre fiction. For requests that specifically ask for "romance," these books will suffice, though you may feel it's a waste of postage, unless you include some other more chaJlenging literature as well. There is no category for pornography. Other subjects to avoid include firearm construction. explosive and incendiary devices" and anything with detailed maps, drawings or pictures of the immediate area around a prison. Organize your shelving based on the level of popularity.;,Q£ilie: tOpIC area. If your space consists of two or more floors, you will want to shelve commonly requested items such as dictionaries and African American Studies on the main floor. It is advisable to reserve a large and accessible portion of the space for large donations of single titles that cannot be shelved at one time. Such donations would include many copies of a single title donated by a publisher, or multiple boxes of a textbook donated by a school. It is best to have one or two individuals assuming responsibility for this area so they can regularly re-stock the shelves with these books. Once you are established, you will receive many more donations of books than you want or are able to use. In such cases, you might want to coordinate book shipments to county jail facilities and half-way.houses. You might also try to trade books for store credit at used bookstores. It is likely that at some point YOll will be forced to recycle at least some ofthe donations you receive. Many neighborhoods have recycling programs through which community organizations receive money based on tbe amount of materials that are recycled.

To keep your program operating smoothly, you need both a core group of dedicated

E. PublisherlBookstore Affiliation
This is a crucial component of a prison book program. The majority of prisons place many


How to Strut a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective restrictions on books being sent to prisoners by individuals. What prisoners are generally allowed to receive are books that are sent directly from a book store or publisher. You meet this condition by sending your books on behalf of the enti ty with which you have an association. Most prisons aren't too picky about this requirement. You don't have to be legally incorporated with the publisher/book store, nor do you need to be a paid employee. You do need to have labels printed that include this publisher or bookstore as part of the address, otherwise the books will not be received by the prisons. (For example Books to Prisoners Project Kalamazoo, Abe Publishing, 111 Lightheart Lane, Kalamazoo MI 99999.)

F. Packing Materi,als
To send books through the mail, you need some sort of package, bag or envelope to wrap the books in. There are m.any types of bubble sheet lined envelopes and padded book mailers that are well suited for mailing books. However, quite a number of prisons will not accept packages sen in envelopes of this type. Rather than buying the large quantities of such items you will need, it is more practical, and cheaper to find friendly businesses that will let you recycle the wrappers from the packages they receive ..For packages containing paperback books that aren't too large or heavy, manila envelopes can be suitable if taped properly. When reusing a package wrapper, be sure to peel off or cross out anyprevious addresses, stamps, labels or designations. Sturdy plastic envelopes like the type the post office supplies for priority or express mail are excellent book mailers. Rather than crossing out any inapplicable writing tbey may bear, tum these envelopes inside out. You will also need tape, address labels, and two rubber stamps. The best tape to use is 2inch clear plastic packaging tape. Get it donated by the case, if at all possible. The address labels need to be printed with your organization's full

rerum address, which includes the name of your affiliate publisher or bookstore. The 2&112 x 3&11] self adhesive address labels tbat come on waxed paper are the easiest to use. If you can't find away to get custom labels for free, it will be necessary to pay for a good supply of them. You can get by without the rubber stamps by using a red marker to write "Educational Materials Enclosed" and "Media Mail" in block letters on the front of each package. However, it's a real time saver to use rubber stamps for this job. These two designations are affixed to all your packages, one to fulfill prison requirements, the other to cover post office regulations. It is best" to use red iok because it stands out. If many people are packing books at one time, it is best to purchase multiple copies of each rubber stamp.

G.. Stamps
AI) established prison book program will spend most of its money on postage ... ost M packages wi 11 cost over two dollars to send, which adds up quickly. You may get a few donations of stamps from prisoners yet it won't make much of a dent in the total. Minimum wage laws don't apply to prison labor, and jobs for prisoners are about half a notch above slave labor. A first class stamp is about the equivalent of the hourly wage for a typical prisoner. That they will send you any oftheir income is a testament to how much they appreciate your efforts. Contact your local post office or consult tbe USPS web site to receive media mail rates .. When paying for stamps at the post office with checks from your organization, the person or persons authorized to sign the checks must present two forms of identification and a letter from the bank stating that you have an account. You will need to fill out some paperwork but once it is on file you will be able to purchase stamps by check at that post office without difficulty. You can avoid the paperwork by using a credit card, but that le_afls to another set


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective of potential problems. Either way, having the same person handling the postage purchases is the smoothest procedure ..

A. Grants and Foundations
There are books and manuals devoted to writing grant applications and finding foundations to fund your cause. Check your local libraryand consult the Foundation Center website at www.fdncenter.org, The turnaround time for most grants is somewhere between 6 months to a year. By the time you research grants and receive and decipher the application [anTIS, the seasonal application deadline may have recently passed and the next cycle may not start for another 6 months. Some grants require that you have a 50lC 3 tax-exempt status, which is a bit of an ordeal to get and not a short term endeavor on your own. However, it is relatively easy to be sponsored by an already established 5 a 1c(3)' organization. Ask around to find one, usually friendly church or larger political nonprofit group in your area can serve this purpose. Your sponsoring organization is entitled 1:0 a cut of any grants you receive, usually 5~10 percent. ,t One angle on grants is that you are supplying a social service by sending educational materials into prisons. Other grants are specifically oriented towards groups working for social change. Simply sending books to prisons isn't usually the type of true change these grants are looking to fund. If you can document your group's involvement with death penalty abolition, control unit monitoring.and similar issues, you can make a convincing case for being awarded these type of grants .. Grants are not the ideal way to finance your operation initially. Make it a point to learn about grants so you can apply in the future, but don't expect to raise money this way for at least your first year. Save any newspaper articles that feature your group or cover any events you hold, and keep a scrapbook of any photos, flyers or pamphlets related to your group. These will come in handy when you need some documentation for your grant applications.

II. The Finances
Postage will be your largest expense. Keep in mind that the more you send, the higher the postage costs, and the more requests you fill, the more requests you will receive ..Be realistic about how many packages you can afford to send each month and prioritize accordingly. Aside from sending books, Books Through Bars recommends adhering to a policy of not spending organizational funds on individual prisoners ..Some of your members may be involved with support campaigns, legal defense funds, publications, etc. but as a group you must be careful not to spread your finances too thin. If you can manage to secure a rent free location, your monthly overhead will be minimal, Having a telephone on site is not an absolute necessity. The majority of your communication is done through the mail. A voice-mail box can suffice for arranging pick ups of donated books, and responding to questions from prison officials ... f prison I officials will know the phone number make sure the message is appropriate. For handling grants and donations by check, you will need to set up a bank account in the name of your group. To do, this you will need to get an Employer Identific~tjon Number from the IRS: The proper form can be downloaded at w·v,'w.irs.gov.Simply search "Forms and Publications" for EIN".The application includes instructions for obtaining an EIN".Once you have secured this number contact a local credit union (or bank) and ask to speak to a. representative about opening an organizational checking account.



How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective

B. Donations from Individua.lsand Groups
Besides donations of books, you can seek financial contributions to support your work. Sometimes donors will want the contribution to be tax deductible. In this case you must be a nonprofit organization or have a nonprofit organization as your sponsor. The legal designation is 501e3 and it is from the IRS ..All donors wanting a tax deduction must write the check out to your sponsoring Sal C 3 organization. Work out with your sponsor how often they will process checks and what percentage they will keep, typically 5-15 percent. Donors will need a receipt and thank you note. Y OUGan write them but they must mention the name of the sponsor who received the donation on your behalf. Many book donors will also want receipts to make their book donations tax deductible. Ask them. to estimate the value of their book donation and promptly send them a receipt that amount. In all cases, you should send a note of thanks. Create a database in which to record their contact information and the type of their donation: As previously mentioned, prisoners will occasionally make small donations. These are usually in the form of a few stamps enclosed with their letter. Stamps are the least cumbersome currency for prisoners who want to make donations. Beware ofuncharacteristically large donations from pris~ners. They may be laundering money and Jaer request it back or ask you to buy them anew TV. Larger sums also draw the attention of the prison administration who may want to investigate. Normally $5-10 is the most to be expected directly from a prisoner. Their relatives on the outside may send more. If you are many months behind in answering requests, it is a good idea to send prisoners a note to let them know you've received their stamps or check. Otherwise, be sure to thank them when you send their books.

C. Book Sales
Book sales are a good way to reduce your overstock of seldom requested subjects and big hardbacks too costly to send. Don't expect to sell everything you put up for sale. The key to a successful book sale is getting the word out that you are having it. Try to hold it outside ana sunny day at a place and time where there is a lot of foot traffic.

D. Fundraisers
These events serve to raise money while also giving you an opportunity to tell people about your program. A speaking appearance by an author or noted authority on prisons or crime issues makes a good program. A debate on the death penalty or a film about a prison topic are other possibilities. Ensuring that the event runs smoothly, has a good turnout, and raises money is no small undertaking. Last minute problems can arise, such as discovering that the'venue requires you to have insurance or that the PA system is inadequate .. If you haven't done this type of thing before, find someone who has, or start with a small event before getting more ambitious. Pack-a-thens axe a great fundraiser as you can both make money for your organization and get caught up in answering requests. Pick a weekend during which your organization will pack books for twelve hams each day. Next, prepare instruction kits for the packers. Each participant should secure pledge money. Encourage donors to pledge a flat fee per hour and contribute it to the organization prior to the actual pack-a-then so that you can use the money to purchase postage for the event. Packers can have pledges from many different people. You can also get local businesses to donate food and prizes. As a result of an annual pack-a-then you can build relationships with new donors and volunteers, raise money for your prison book program, and /send out more than one month's worth of boek'requests.
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How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective

E. In Kind Donations
Much. of the support for your operation need not take the form of a direct monetary contribution. There are many other ways people can lend a hand to help your cause ..Besides books, be on the lookout for donations of shelves, packing tape, pens and markers, filing cabinets, desks, access to a copy machine for free or a copy machine. Tasks that you can always use help with include transporting packages to the post office, picking up donations of books, writing grant proposals, planning and handling of fundraising and publicity events, photocopying form letters, and keeping your book inventory properly sorted and categorized. RU1U1ingout of money or volunteers can often occur, but you never seem to run out of books. Your books can be used as a barter commodity. One of the attractions for volunteers is being able to pick through a large selection of . titles and borrow one or two of interest. At .. Books Through Bars we do 110tdiscourage anyone he I ping to pack books from taking a few home as long as they promise to bring them back when they are finished with them. It is possible to work out some creative deals to save time and money, such as someone with a car provides transportation i11 exchange for library privileges on the book inventory, or the person providing building space gets to pick out several nice hardbacks every month in lieu of rent.

accomplish packing is to set up packing sessions as cafe style events, held on a regular basis. Having refreshments and listening to music makes for an enjoyable and productive working environment.

A. Sorting Letters
Books Through Bars advises new programs to open letters within a day to a week of receiving them. You should do this even when your program is three or more months behind in filling requests (a situation common to most prison book programs), We recommend this for several reasons. First, a small but significant portion of the letters you receive will be requests for information about how your project operates, These requests can be filled. quickly by the person opening the mail using a form letter. Similarly, prisoners may be requesting resource lists that you can send to them without delay. Or, they may be requesting a service that you cannot provide but f6r which you can refer them to another party. In addition, their letter might include information of a time sensitive nature-such as an approval form that must be sent with a package of books within thirty days. Second, requests can include donations. Prisoners regularly contribute stamps and small checks to Books Through Bars. You will want to be able to use such donations upon their receipt and to thank the person promptly even if it takes several months to send them books. Finally, opening requests months before filling them provides your program with an opportunity to solicit or otherwise look for books on the more obscure topics that are requested. In your first few months you may get a reasonable number of requests that can be answered promptly with little difficulty. In time, the volume of mail will increase until the only manageable way to deal with it all is to divideit into several categories ..Our technique is as .< follows. ~:.~

ilL The Process
The step by step procedure that follows is how Books Through Bars operates. The best way for you to function may vary and will probably change with time as you grow. The first two steps, reading and sorting of letters, occur before the actual packing. During a typical packing session, all the other steps are carried out with the exception of transportation to the post office which may not take place until a few days later. We have found that a pleasant way to


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective When letters are first opened and read, those that are from prisoners exchanging regular correspondence with any of our staff are set aside for the addressee. All other mail is sorted into categories and given a brief one line description, written on the back of the envelope, summarizing the subjects requested. It works well to have one or two people who do this task exclusively. The categories we use are: 1~GeDeral Fiction-encamp assing all popular fiction, romance, westerns, science fiction, novels, and classics. Also puzzles and humor. 2~Educational-requests for books on basic reading and wri ting skil1s, reference books, textbooks, science and computers, history, self-help, etc. 3-SociaI and Political=-this is the category for prisoners who show an interest in social and political issues including radical politics, Black history, Latino and Native American studies, etc. 'Ihis is an area that Books Through Bars·' specializes in. Part of our goal is to make these prisoners aware that there is a vast community of like- minded people whose work one can get involved with upon release. For topics such as philosophy and psychology. use your discretion in deciding if it goes here or with the Educational requests. 4-lnformatioD Requests-letters that ask for information or referrals rather than actual books. These usually get sent a copy of a resource list. 5-Special Miscellaneous=-Requests from prison with unusually complicated mailing restrictions, letters written entirely in Spanish or other languages, and. odd items that don't fit into any of the other categories. You might want to make another category for requests concerning J ega! matters. You can expect to get inquiries for law books, legal dictionaries, etc. but the donations of these are few arid far between. As the volume of mail or volunteers increases you may need to make more categories. Just recently, due to an increase in-the number of letters we receive each month we are now sorting into about 20 categories.

B... eading Letters R
Letters range from epic life stories to short notes along the lines of "I heard about your . program, Ihave no money, please send me some books, JIll take any type you have." Most letters tend to be fairly Sh011and to the point. Some may be funny, insightful or thought provoking in unusual ways. You'll find an amazing range of handwriting styles. Some letters may contain artwork or poetry. Save them. When you have a good collection, they can be displayed at fundraising events or used in other creative ways for bringing awareness to prison issues. Theone-line summary placed on the back of each letter when first sorted is used when thumbing through apile of requests to get an idea of what's in it, or to pull out several requests for the same thing. When it o~mes time to match books to individual requests, refer to the text ofthe letter. You will find that it is useful to develop a variety of form letters to be sent to prisoners in response to specific situations. We have already mentioned two that are used most often: information about the program and resource lists ..You might also want to develop the following: Donation Receipt. Send this letter when a prisoner has sent money or stamps to your program. Cannot FiU. Each month you will find that there are some requests you are not abJe to fill. Books Through Bars has created two "Cannot Fill" letters. The first of these is sent to prisoners whose area of interest is too obscure and those that request books that are commonly requested but seldom donated. The second letter is for prisoners who aren't able to receive books as a consequence of prison restrictions. Most often this applies to prisoners who ~ave requested.~ school level


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective textbooks but are only permitted to receive new and or paperback books. Note that some prisoners will respond to "Cannot Fin" letters immediately with a request that is easier to fill. You should make a significant effort to fill their new requests soon since they have already waited many months.

c.. electing S


Too Late.
This letter is sent to a prisoner if/when Books Through Bars falls more than 4 months behind. We explain that our volume of returned packages would be too high if we were to send books after too much time has e1apsed. As is the case with "Cannot Fill" letters, prisoners will often respond with a new request.

Sometimes prisoners will request specific titles or writers ..Anyone in your group's knowledge of authors in specific subject areas will come in handy. If you don't have exactly what they want, select something close or similar. If you've never heard ofwbat they want and haven't a clue what genre it is, send anything. Chances are they will be more than happy to get whatever is available, and if not it will be passed on to a cel1mate. One of the nice things about giving something for free to people who don't have much is that you get very few complaints.

Pre-Approval ..
This letter includes the list of titles selected for pre-approval as well as instructions prisoners should follow when sending verification ofthe package's approval. This is sent when prisoners advise you that their prison requires particular titles to be pre-approved. .. Needs Approval. Over the course of months, you win become familiar with those pri sons and units that require incoming-packages to be accompanied by a signed approval fonn. Occasionally, prisoners in those institutions will send a request without including their approval form, In those cases, you should send them a letter that instructs them to obtain this form. Without it, their package will be returned at the organization's expense.

D. Checking Restrictions
All prisons are not created equal. Far from it. With regard to mail restrictions and regulations each prison sets its own policy. . From the point of view of a prison book program, there is little rhyme or reasoif to the varying restrictions, and no discernible patterns geographically. To further complicate matters, there are units within a prison that have policies different from the fest ofthe facility. The broadest policy is to allow any books or magazines. Beyond this there is every combination of soft backs only, hardbacks only, used OK, new books only, no magazines, no books without covers, books must be mailed with an invoice from the bookstore and so on. One of the tougher policies is to require an prisoner to get a form signed by a prison administrator which is then sent to you and must be attached to the outside of the package. The forms often have a specified time period during which the books can be received by the prisoner. If your backlog of requests prevents you from answering this request within the allowed time period, the prisoner will have to get a new form and start over again. In some instances there is a librarian Of teacher at the prison who can. get around difficult restrictions if you sencrJrooks directly

Special Circumstances.
There will likely be en1ire;DOCs, particular prisons and specific units to which you will not be able to send books. Create a letter to be sent to prisoners in these facilities. For example, Books Through Bars sends such letters to Oregon State Prisons, SCI~Graterford, and SCI~ Frackville. The letters should be specific to the situation at their prison or in their state. Books Through Bars would be happy to provide you with copies of the variety of form letters we send to prisoners.


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective to them. It's also more cost effective to send in a large box this way. The best way to navigate the maze of regulations is to keep au alphabetized state by state list of the restrictions of all the prisons you have dealt with. When preparing packages to send out this list is referred to so as not to send books that will be immediately rejected by the prison mail room. Whenever corresponding with people in prisons you haven't sent books to before, ask them what their policy is so you can add it to your list. Books Througb Bars will be glad to send you the most recent version of our list so that you can start your own. Prison book programs are working on methods for sharing the information they collect concerning restrictions.

E. Packing Books
onnally it's a good idea to limit the books to two or three per package. If it's a large hardback, perhaps a specific title someone asked for, sending just one book w ill suffice. To go beyond three or four may not meet the restriction some prisons place on the number of books a'prisoner can receive at one time.

F. Form Letter
With each request you fill, you need to convey some general information about your program and how it operates. This is easily done by including a [ann letter with the books that describes what your organization does and does not do. If you only want to.send books every six months, tell them so. SUCh letters often represent opportunities to ask for prison restrictions, advise them of your chronic backlog, or tell them what kinds of books you can't or won't sent. Though impersonal, it's really the only practical way to handle the great volume of requests you will be receiving. Additional comments and personal notes can always be added ifneeded. A sample form letter appears in the Appendix 2. You can make a similar letter of your own and run off enough

copies to keep an ample supply on hand. By designing a letter that fits twice on one page, you can reduce the copying costs. Running out of form letters can be quite inconvenient when you have a good sized group of people busily packing books The one personal touch that isn't too impractical is writing in the prisoner's first name after the word "Dear". It is also a good idea to write in the date and the number of books sent. At the end oftbe letter is the name of your organization. The person in your group who selects and packs the books can add their first name here. However a word of caution. Many prisoners are shunned by family, relatives and former friends and have no contacts on the outside ..By giving them a name to latch on to you become tile one bright light on an otherwise very din] horizon. They will do all they can to cultivate the relationship which may, in their mind, hopefully go from further book requests, to regular correspondence, to visits in person at the prison, to belping them file a successful legal appeal, with possible romantic overtones thrown in somewhere along the v,'ay. Therefore, be very clear and up front about what you can and can't do for any prisoner. Unless you have legal training and want to get involved in an appeal case, be direct in stating that your program does not have the time or resources to provide legal assistance. Correspondence should always be conducted through the address of your organization. Never use your borne address. This is not meant to discourage you from regularly exchanging letters with prisoners. Its good to exchange ideas with those who show a desire to question and better understand their cultural history, prisons as a political issue, or the ideology of social change. Yet when corresponding with prisoners, realize that you cannot be all things to all prisoners. There simply aren't enough bours in a day, even if you were getting paid. Another unfortunately reality is that not all prisoners are sincere. Be aware _9{whal you're


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective getting into when using a female-sounding name in correspondence with a male prisoner. Even after many letters have been exchanged, the tone of the text may abruptly tum amorous or even obscene. In such situations, remember that you have the upper.hand, you can simply stop answering the letters. Each volunteer should think carefully about how involved they want to get and how much time they can devote before using their name on form letters, If they don't want to correspond individually with prisoners, best to leave the letter unsigned. area for postage. One pass over the label will ensure it won't get smudged or be torn.

I. Weighing
Fourth class mail rates are by the pound. If you decide to weigh and stamp your packages yourself, you will need a reasonably accurate scale. It doesn't have to be digitally calibrated to fractions of an ounce, just something that will tell you what's over one pound or under 2 pounds, Always round up to the next pound, for example, 1 pound 2 ounces needs 2 pounds worth of postage. There will also be occasions when you will need to send packages over 2 pounds. If your scale is misadjusted on the high side, you will soon find out because the post office will return some of your packages with postage due.

G. Addressing and Labeling
Sometimes it can be difficult to decipher the handwriting in the request letter. Usually there will be a name and address both in the letter and on the envelope. So between the two, the correct address is discernible. If you have your own printed address labels, just write the prisoner's address in the "Send to" blank and stick the label onto the package. Then use the "Media Mail" and "Educational Materials Enclosed" stamps above or below the label. It doesn't hurl to stamp again in another spot ifthe first attempt doesn't print completely. By labeling before you seaJ and wrap the package with clear tape, the pertinent information winds up under the tape, and isn't subject to being rubbed off. H. SeaHng the Package Packages are best sealed with 2 inch clear packaging tape. Dispensers are easily obtainable, although the typical style designed to affix and cut with one hand can take some practice to master, without tearing holes in the package or cutting yourself with the exposed blade. Duct tape and masking tape was designed for other purposes and won't work well for parcels. Clear 2-inch tape is also easier to deal with than staples. Going around all four edges of the package can help to smooth down the comers, but be careful to leave enough untaped

J. Stamps and Postage
There are three ways to deal with postage .. '( One is to take all your wrapped and addressed packages to the post office. A postal worker will then weigh each one, determine the necessary postage, place a post office sticker on each package in lieu of a stamp, and keep a running tab of the accumulated total, which you then pay by check, cash or credit card. Using this method means you don't need your own scale and you don't have to bother with stamps. The second method is to purchase large quantities of stamps, weigh the packages yourself with a scale at your location, attach the correct stamp combination, and then drop them off at the post office usually at the loading dock. Consult with your local post office about their procedures. You will need to buy the light combination of denominations to add up to the current fourth-class book rates. Keep a supply of first class stamps for regular correspondence. The main advantage to stamping your own packages is you don't have to wait in line at a post office window and suffer the dirty looks of people in line behind you waitin¥.20 or 30 minutes for you to get all your i'$ms weighed.


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Col1ective You also aren't restricted to the hours that the service window is open. The third method is to use a postage meter which gives you the advantages ofbotb the first two methods. With a postage meter you periodically put money into an account that is credited to the machine in your possession which essentially allows you to print your own postage and have it deducted from your tab. The chief disadvantage of this method is the cost. Most postal meter are rented by the year, often with contracts for several years. There is usually a service charge each time you put money in your account. Also you have to buy supplies for the meter, often from the company r-enting it to you. Another disadvantage is that the machine prints out the date and the post office insists that your packages be delivered to them on the date shown. You can predate the meter but you still have to get the packages there on whatever date or re-meter all the packages. Ifyou have connections with a local bookstore or publisher who has a postal meter, ask them about working out an arrangement where you can use it. Otherwise you may want to start YI?UT operation by having packages weighed at the post office. This will allow you to get familiar with post office procedures. Since a postal worker will be looking over each package while you are present, any improper labeling or unsatisfactory sealing will be pointed out. When the quantity of items you bring each time becomes burdensome you can, make the switch to using stamps and a scale. Many groups have been successful in setting up a table outside a busy post office and asking passersby to take a package in to mail it. With each package not costing more than a few dollars, this is an easy way for sympathetic folks to get involved with little effort and strain on their pocketbooks.

K..Transporting Packages to the Post Office
There is a great variety in sizes, layout and staffing in post offices. Each has its own little quirks. In any urban area there is a large main post office with many smaller satellite branches in the vicinity ..The branches may have shorter hOUTS of operation and not be fully equipped to provide.all services. All mail sent out of the city usually departs from the main office ..Ther·efore you may want to deal exclusively with them. . There are plastic tubs available at 110 charge from the post office which can be used to carry your packages on the way there ..If you have already done your weighing and stamping, you simply leave the tubs at the designated counter or loading dock and then pick up some empty tubs for next time.

IV .. Pertpheral Detalls
A .. Resource Information
'When you get requests for services or expertise which fall outside that which a book program is designed to provide, it's good to have on hand a resource list of names, addresses and groups. Like a list of mail restrictions, this list can be periodically updated as you discover new information. At Books Through Bars we keep a supply of resource lists op.hand and mail


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective them to prisoners whenever it seems appropriate, judging from their letter. you send are well shared, and provide feedback on what books best meet their needs. Here are some additional notes: Do not provide your home address or phone number to a prisoner. Should you arrange to visit an prisoner you know, they will most likely need your address to put you on their visiting list. In that situation, you will have cultivated a relationship over time and will have some level of trust and understanding, so providing your address is okay, In all other cases, stick with the organization address for all correspondence. If you give out your borne phone number, even to someone you would like to get calls from, you may come to regret it. Unless you Livevery close to the prison, the outgoing calls by prisoners are long distance calls and must be made collect. It can be very difficult to reject a collect call when you know someone you have exchanged many letters with is on the other end of the line hoping to talk to you. If you accept the first call, it may become a regular occurrence and your ~hone biJl will never be the same. Beware anytime a prisoner asks for your social security number, driver's license information or credit card data. There are some con artists whom brick walls won't stop, You may never run into this situation but if you do, it will be disguised as red tape. For instance, an pnsoner tells you he has to fill out some kind of permit to receive the books, and a social security number is somewhere in the list of information he says be needs is, If any such information were really required, you'd be sending it directly to a prison administrator, not an prisoner. If you have never been inside a prison, a visit is highly recommended, but don't rush into it. By bearing in mind the aforementioned cautions, going to see someone you have been writing to for a long time can be a very stimulating experience, There are requests for certain forms of assistance that must be categorically rejected, Books are constructed in such a way that various types of contraband can be hidd~fo'insid.ethem.

B. Contacts with Other Groups
The strength of any organized effort towards social change lies in its success at branching out and networking with other individuals and groups, until a full-fledged movement is created, Y our contacts and connections are a vital part of your operation. Whether they provide active support, or merely serve as a referral point, they can all be apprised of your upcoming speaking events, book sales or pack-a-thens. Likewise your group can keep itself informed and aware of the work of allied organizations, In addition to all the people ancIJor groups mentioned elsewhere, here are some other suggestions: The local public defenders office will more than likely be very sympathetic to your work. Sometimes they update all their crime code books and will give you the old ones, The Second Hand stores like the Salvation Army are good contacts [or referrals of book donations, Americore is the domestic branch of the Peace Corps and is a potential source of volunteer help, The nearest branch of the American Friends Service Committee should be kept up to date on your activities, Political prisoner support, control unit monitoring, and death penalty abolition groups may be interested in cosponsoring a large speaking event.

C. Correspondence with Selected Prisoners ,~.
Sending books into prisons is the main part of your operation but it is not the only part, You can not only educate and enlighten but also learn from people who are incarcerated. Maintaining ongoing correspondence with some prisoners is part of working toward the goal of social change which is an important part. of a prison book program's mission, Prison book programs should maintain contact with leaders of prisoner study groups. They can ensure that the books


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective This is the main reason why prisons restrict private individuals from sending books to prisoners. Somewhere among the hundreds of letters you receive, you may get a direct or implied request to smuggle something into the prison. Under no circumstances should you allow your operation to be involved in any illegal or clandestine activity. The only tangible items you send into prisons are reading materials and nothing else. Though you may receive the most heartrending pleas from prisoners you have bad ongoing correspondence with, asking you to bend the rules jus! a wee bit, its not worth jeopardizing your entire program to help out one person through underhanded means ..You have no way of knowing what else an prisoner is involved in, and should it lead to a riot or escape attempt where someone gets killed, your "little favor" could get you charged in a murder conspiracy. Thereafter all prisons will reject your mail and the repercussions could affect not just your group, but all prison book programs. So if anyone in your group or any prisoner you hear from wants to get drugs, weapons, tools, or cash int(}" a prison, or is plotting a breakout, kindly inform them in no uncertain terms that it is Dot what your organization is about and you can't help them. • Spanish language requests. • Any combination of the above. Y all can save yourself from writing a lot of request rejection letters if you pick a selfexplanatory name for your group, such as "The Tennessee Control Unit Book Program for Women."



D. Specialization
Depending on what your interests are and where you are located, you may want to focus on certain areas of specialization instead of the broader duty of accepting type of request, from any prisoner, anywhere in the country. Especially if you aren't sure of what kind of time, money and personnel resources you can depend on for the long term, narrowing down the work is advisable. You can always branch out later on. Some ideas: • Requests from prisons in your home state. • Requests from control unitlsupermax prisons. • Requests from women. • Requests for non-fiction only.


Someone in your group will need to function as the treasurer and keep track of all income and expenditures. Most grant foundations expect some sort of report back on what you did with the money they gave you. It's a good idea to keep track of the number of requests you receive from prisoners each month, In addition, you should keep a record of the number of packages you are able to send to prisoners ..You will also want to keep track of the number of packages returned to you every month. It's important to make a record of packages that were returned for reasons other than transfer or release. This information will be critical if you attempt to challenge prison rules or mailroom actions ..The other records (numbers of letters and packages) can be as detailed Of as simple as time permits. Some of the newer prison book programs have implemented. systems whereby they make a record of each prisoner's bo ok requests. Such a record can be consulted to determine whether a prisoner has received a package within the last few months. If you are interested in learning more about the benefits and disadvantages of such a system, contact us and we can put you in touch with one oftbe programs that has been using a tracking system.

F. Prisoner Advisory Board
Books Through Bars would recommend that you develop a prisoner advisory board (PAB) .. Although the nature of our projects ensures prisoner participation, you should tty to create a mechanism by which prisoner input is made a part of the decision-making process ..Once we decided to create cur P AB, we ~piled a list of


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective
approximately 15 prisoners that we wanted to ask to serve on the advisory board. Prior to each decision-making meeting, P AB members receive a packet with the notes from the previous meeting as well as any agenda items that have already been proposed. They are asked to provide input on upcoming agenda items, surra-est new azenda items -, ask clarifvinz ~Q "b ' _' questions, etc. In addition, the P AB assists us in deciding how to spend budget money allocated to the purchase of books and offers constructive criticism on the forms we send to prisoners. Each PAB member is matched up with a collective member. P AB members correspond with their buddies to clarify questions they have about the organization and provide feedback and ideas. In return, Books Through Bars makes a concerted effort to send P AB members the kinds of books that they want on a more frequent basis. If you decide to create aPAB, you will need to prepare a fairly extensive packet of materials for the prisoners you are inviting. To participate in decision-making, prisoners need to understand your organization. In addition you should. be careful to avoid activist jargon in your introductory packets and meeting notes.

books tbat don't move very fast. These can be traded or donated to thrift shops, sold at your book sales, or disposed of at paper recycling

C) Be more selective in the donations you accept. Turn down collections that contain predominately subj ects you are overstocked


with .. Crisis #2 - Incoming requests are backlogged to the point where you are over 6 months behind i.11 answering them.
Prisoners are often moved, transferred, paroled or released. The mail forwarding capabilities and address correction practices of most prisons are poor at best. If you are answering requests that are over 5 or 6 months old, many will be returned and you will have wasted that much effort and postage. At Books Through Bars, after four months go by, we send a letter that apologizes for and explains the backlog, and asks them to resubmit. Many of these letters are returned as paroled or transferred but one first class stamp is a lot cheaper than two or three dollars for a package. Answering requests within 90 days is a good limit to aim for. lfyour backlog is 4 months and growing, you can take preemptive steps to stave off a major crisis: Hold a pack-a-thon. This is a marathon packing session 12 hours or longer where your volunteers have solicited sponsors who are pledging some amount of money for every hour the volunteer is packing. It takes some planning, but a good pack-a-thou can become quite a festive event, with donated food, or even donated massages for the tired arms and shoulders of the packers. If you can collect some of the pledge money in advance, it helps to cover the increased postage costs of sending so many packages at one time. A last resort is to simply discard the backlog of requests and start on the recent ones. Don't throwaway everything though. Open and read all the letters you receive so th~ranyone you are

From time to time you will encounter obstacles and snafus, some of which may lead to a full fledged crisis. Below are some examples of what can happen and what to do when it occurs.

v. Averting


Crisis #1 - Donated books overflow available storage space.
This is bound to happen sooner or later. The following suggestions can be used sim ultaneousl y. A) Reorganize your space more efficiently. Add more shelves and make them deeper and taller. B) Clean out the "dead" stock. With experience you will come to learn the types of


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective regularly corresponding with isn't lost. You may also want to answer the educational/self help requests or the letters from those who show a political awareness. Ifyou decide to discard requests without filling them, it's a good idea to let the prisoner know what you are doing and why.

Crisis #3 - Departure of key person An all volunteer group has no contracts or

requirements for advance notice of resignation. Anyone at any time may have to cease his or her involvement for any number of reasons. To prevent one departure from creating a crisis, try to have each facet of the operation known and understood by more than just one person. Someone may take on all the grant writing and donation solicitation, but if there are others who keep abreast of the process and relevant details, the life of your operation won't be in danger should the fundraising expert suddenly depart.
Crisis #4 - Funding dries up
The nature of grants is that they aren't automatically granted and there may be a delay of several months between notification and the check arriving. Without an ongoing effort to seek new grants, fill out applications and wait for them your funding may run dry. What will not run dry is the steady stream of requests from prisoners ..Some measure of financial security can be had by maintaining a balance of different types of funding sources. Don't abandon the concept of book sales or sp,.eakipg events because you just got a nice big check that tripled your budget. In six months your financial picture won't look so rosy if you haven't been planning ahead. You can temporarily shut down outgoing mail operations until enough money comes in to pay for postage. Do not pack a large batch of books if you don't expect to have the postage covered in the foreseeable future. As per Crisis #2, you may be forced to discard a backlog of requests in order to get back on track.


How to Sta11 a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective

Contact us:

Books Through Bars
4722 Baltimore Avenue


PA 19143

(215) 72.7-81'70 www. books through bars .org E-mail: info@booksthroughbars.org

Appendix 1
Books Through Bars' Mission Statement We believe a society of social and economic inequality leads to a cycle of crime and incarceration. We work to reverse the dehumanizing effects excessive punishment inflicts upon individuals, families and comm unities .. Books Through Barssends quality reading material to prisoners and encourages creative dialog on the criminal justice system, thereby educating those living inside and outside our prison walls.
Books Through Bars is a volunteer collective based in Philadelphia and a nonprofit organization. It was formerly a project of the nonprofit organization New Society Education Foundation. Books Through Bars has published a 96page bo;k of art by people in prison, N(siders'

Art.· The Contexts Collection by Artists in Prison. It is available from us at $14.9 Slcopy +
$3 for shipping. See our website for more inform ati on. The Contexts project has shown art by people in prison in a variety of venues, both formal and infonna1. To arrange an art show or find out more about working with prison art contact: Con tcxts@booksthro UJ~h ars. 01'£ b

Sign Of l"he Trme~.


How to Start a Prison Book Program by the Books Through Bars Collective

Appendix II
Samples of several form letters.

Books Through Bars date: #of books: A Project of the New Society Ec!ucational Foundation 4722 Bahimore AVenue Philadelphia, PA 191.43 Thank you for wrIting and for being patient. We hope that It hasn't been too long since you sent your request. We 'apologize for this form letter but we get so many requests that this is one things we feel we need to do in order not to fall behind. Requests should be made by subject rather than author or title. Be specific if you can: ask for us history (rather than history) or Greek literature (rather than classics). Because we receive so many requests we are always looking for postage money. We exist entirely on donations and the money we have goes mostly for postage (no discounts from the post office) and some supplies. If you are able to, please, make a donation of any amount (the average package cost is $2 . 12 to sent). Sending stamps (If allowed by your faci.lity) is also great. We really appreciate your effort to help and we will fill your request regardless of whether or not you contribute. Please let us know if there are any restrictions on reading material comin.g in to your prison, for example, no hard cover books. Print your nam~ and complete return addre$.s clearly. We hope you enjoy the books. Share them with others if you can ..Let us know the name of the prison librarian and how to reach him or her. Please write again when you are ready for more books. . ' Regards,

._ Books Through Bars Collective

,. We are happy to be able to t'ii,1your reque~t for a dictionary at this time. We hope you find it useful and that it helps yo~ ~rthe~ youreducatron: OurFohc~ has b~en to rely on donated books. Since most people do not donate dictionaries we .ar~exp~nmentmgwlth buying them to fill requests such as yours, We cannot possibly affof? t~ buy enoughdlctlOnan~s to fill all the requests we receive. We certainly cannot send anyone more than one dictionary. Please do not ask for one agam, Thanks for your cooperation. Books Through Bars Collective


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