The Most Revolutionary Act

Diverse Ramblings of an American Refugee

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
New Plymouth, New Zealand
December 02
Retired psychiatrist, activist and author of 2 young adult novels - Battle for Tomorrow and A Rebel Comes of Age - and a free ebook 21st Century Revolution. My 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led me to leave the US in 2002. More information about my books (and me) at


OCTOBER 3, 2013 10:02PM

Books to Prisoners

Rate: 3 Flag


 The Political Importance of Literacy

Books to Prisoners is a Seattle-based, all-volunteer non-profit organization founded in 1973 under the sponsorship of Left Bank Books. BTP ships books to prisoners – at their request. Prisoners send them 1,200 – 1,300 book requests per month. BTP believes that books are important tools for learning and self-improvement. Moreover, as Brazilian educator and activist Paulo Freire taught, literacy and reading opens peoples’ minds to new ideas and possibilities.

In the US, which spends vastly more on the prison industrial complex than schools, prison is the primary anti-poverty program. American prisons house nearly 25% of the world’s prisoners – more than 2.2 million. The vast majority are from disadvantaged communities and are either African American or Hispanic. Most have been incarcerated for victimless drug crimes. Prison rehabilitation is a myth, especially as prison privatization and state cutbacks have greatly curtailed prisoners’ access educational and training opportunities.

BTP prefers monetary donations. However they do welcome books from the following categories provided they are in paperback (most prisons prohibit hard back books) – and preferably accompanied with a $35-70 donation to cover the cost of shipping them to prisons.

  • Dictionaries
  • Antiquarian books (these can be sold to cover postage)
  • Spanish books
  •   Legal self-help
  • Almanacs
  • Books on chess
  • Books on drawing
  • Vocational education
  • How-to Books
  • Textbooks
  • GED preparation books
  • African-American history
  • True crime
  • Paperback fiction: thrillers, mysteries, sci-fi, Westerns, fantasy, horror

Books (and donations) can be mailed to:

Books to Prisoners, c/o Left Bank Books, 92 Pike St. Box A, Seattle WA 98101

People can also donate via the BTP website:

The following video illustrates the profound effect this forty-year program has had on prisoners’ lives:

I have often reflected upon the new vistas that reading opened to me. I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke in me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive – Malcolm X

photo credit: » Zitona « via photopin cc

Originally posted at Veterans Today

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Those who simply wish to donate books to a jail or prison near them should call that place and ask to speak to the Catholic Priest or any Protestant Chaplin. He can advise them on how to do this without cost. Some prisons censor the books - some don't. In any case all the subjects they censor for are sex, explosives, chemistry and non-Christian religion; any other subject is pretty much OK.

Good suggestion, Sky. What I really like about this program, though, is they only cater to prisoners' requests.
Thanks for this. I've got a ton of books that I can donate.
Dr. Bramhall,
How do prisoners request novels that they don't know exist? Books sent to the prison library allow prisoners to browse - just as you and I do in a regular library. I seldom go into a library or book store knowing what books I'll come out with.
Rehabilitation wasn't always a myth; for a while they were implementing programs that worked but they didn't work overnight. When the results weren't quick enough the demagogues came up with their get tough on crime rhetoric and the prison industrial complex took off.

Ironically reform for child care and other educational efforts continued even without as much reform and they almost certainly resulted in decreases in crime even while prison population was going up. This isn't reported much especially the evidence indicating the cause of the reductions which don't support ideologies of the elite.

Bloomberg attempted to take credit for this with his stop and frisk policies but crime started going down long before that, even before Giuliani took office.

BTW the books can almost certainly be dropped off at local prisons or county farms and it might be more efficient even if the non-profit organization, which is a good idea, doesn't get credit. Calling first won't hurt.
I think I made some assumptions in writing this post I shouldn't have made because some important points aren't getting across:

First African American and Hispanic prisoners are contacting Left Bank Books because the books they want (dictionaries, legal self help, Black history, GED preparation books, etc) aren't being donated to prison libraries.

Second Left Bank Books is a radical cooperative run by anarchists and socialists with a primary purpose of political education. They're less interested in rehabilitating prisoners than creating political leadership in the African American community.

In retrospect, I think I should have come out and said this in the post.