working draft of p2p faq

Q: What types of books do you need donated?  Where can I send donations?

Thanks for writing and for your interest and support.  The books that we need the most are:

* Dictionaries and Thesauri
* Books on learning spanish, Spanish-language books, Spanish to English dictionaries
* Books on African-American studies/issues
* GED study books
* Books on Art/Drawing

As many prisons have restrictions on hardcover books, paperback books are preferred,  but we certainly won’t turn away hardcover books.

You can send book donations to

The Midwest Pages to Prisoners Project
c/o Boxcar Books and Community Center
310A S Washington St.
Bloomington, IN 47401

Q: I want to help out Midwest Pages to Prisoners, but I don’t live in the Midwest.  How can I help?

You may wish to save on postage and help out more locally by sending the books to a project that’s closer geographically to you. is a good, up-to-date list of active prison books programs.  Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any active groups listed in New Jersey, though there are some active ones in New York and Pennsylvania.

Also, starting a prison books program yourself isn’t terribly hard.  A Philadelphia-based prison books project has compiled a handbook about starting prison books projects.  You can find information about this publication at

Finally, there are a number of ways you can engage in prison issues beyond just sending books. Many jails or prisons have opportunities for people to volunteer with educational programs.  You could try calling a jail or prison in your community and asking for the person in charge of education for information on such opportunities.  This may take some persistence on your part to get involved in this way, but it is ultimately possible.

Also, if you are comfortable working with faith-based organizations, many religiously-affiliated groups engage in prison issues.  In particular, more progressive religious groups like the Unitarian Universalist Church or The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) work with some pretty interesting programs.  A minister with the UU church here in Bloomington works with a program that audiorecords incarcerated parents reading books and giving messages to their children.

Also, you may want to look into groups working with victim-offender reconciliation or restorative justice programs in your community.  Such groups attempt to create a dialogue between those who have been convicted of crimes and those affected by those crimes and is an interesting alternative to the traditional models of the prison system.

Finally, there are a number of groups that deal more generally with prisoners rights, supporting prisoners, and supporting the families of prisoners.  Many of these groups don’t seem to have a huge public profile, but if you keep abreast of the news, particularly independent media, you can get a good idea of who is working on prison issues in your community.