Why your donations to Books Beyond Bars are more valuable than ever right now
During “giving season,” Books Beyond Bars asks for your help in getting books to New York’s incarcerated individuals by donating to our cause. With US postage prices on the rise (there was a hike in July and another is forthcoming in January 2023) and prison literacy programs in decline (a situation exacerbated by the pandemic), it’s more important than ever to ensure that the many requests received by BBB can be fulfilled.
The fact that many New York prisons have instituted package bans or other restrictions recently has also made it harder for incarcerated individuals to receive books. New York’s stated policy on books in prison is “to encourage inmates to read publications from varied sources if such material does not encourage them to engage in behavior that might be disruptive to orderly facility operations.” However, as Benjamin Weiser points out in a recent New York Times piece on the fate of Blood in the Water, Heather Ann Thompson’s book about the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility, “officials have tried to justify book bans in prisons by arguing that certain types of information, like instructions on building a weapon or on how to escape, may be legitimately denied.”
The fact that many New York prisons have instituted package bans or other restrictions recently has also made it harder for incarcerated individuals to receive books.
Such difficulties are allied with others, including a lack of available prison class programming. In 2016, the Vera Institute of Justice reported that only 35 percent of state prisons provide college-level courses, and these programs only serve 6 percent of incarcerated individuals nationwide. These statistics are particularly frustrating given the demonstrated effectiveness of prison education in reducing crime; in 2016, the RAND Corporation produced a report that showed that individuals who participate in any type of any type of educational program while in prison are 43 percent less likely to return to prison.
Requests for help are many and varied at this time of year and we understand that inflation continues to hit pockets hard, but if you are planning to make any donations, we hope very much that you will consider BBB. Your contribution offsets the shipping costs involved in sending multiple books at a time; keeps our library stocked with high-demand literature; contributes to small projects and resources for BBB to host and share; and helps us expand our network to serve more incarcerated individuals.