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Prison Book Program

Listing Last Update: April 3, 2018

Location

1306 Hancock Street
Suite 100, Basement level
Quincy, MA 02169
www.prisonbookprogram.org

Primary Contact

Pam Boiros

(617) 423-3298

info@prisonbookprogram.org

Program Overview

Prison Book Program is a grassroots organization that exists for one purpose—to send free books to prisoners. We've been doing it since 1972.
Books are crucial to the political, spiritual, and educational development of all people. Most prisons do not allow family and friends to send books into prisons; they must come from a bookstore or publisher. Our affiliation with the Lucy Parsons Bookstore and our many sources of books to serve incarcerated people allows us to serve several thousand prisoners every year. In a time of cuts in educational programs for prisons, we serve a vital purpose.

Responding to prisoner requests for books – Picking, Invoicing and Packing – accounts for approximately 90% of the work we do during our volunteer sessions.
If you would like to help, just come by our office and we'll get you started. There's no need to sign up ahead of time and you can stay for as long as you wish. For your first visit please arrive at the start of the shift. Please email or call us if you have any questions.

Mission Statement

Our Mission
Prison Book Program mails books to people in prison to support their educational, vocational and personal development and to help them avoid returning to prison after their release. We also aim to provide a quality volunteer experience that introduces citizens to issues surrounding the American prison system and the role of education in reforming it.


Statement of Values
Here at Prison Book Program, we want to create an environment that is fun, informative, and above all, respectful. As an organization, we recognize and promote respect for:
Reading – Providing free books fosters improved reading and literacy skills — a most basic human skill.
Education – Literacy enables prisoners to further their education, which reduces recidivism.
Space – We take excellent care of the space provided to us by the historic United First Parish Church of Quincy.
Prisoners – We strive to provide a view of the realities of the prison experience through the letters, poetry and art of our prisoner patrons.
Each Other – PBP fosters a respectful and supportive environment in order to ensure positive volunteer experiences.
Circumstances – We make no judgments about the past actions of our prisoner patrons, but rather respect and applaud their self-improvement efforts.
Time – PBP operates exclusively on the efforts of volunteers, and we respect our volunteers' time, which is well-spent advancing the mission of the organization.

Hours of operation: Tuesday and Thursday evenings 6:30pm - 9:00pm and one Saturday per month (see website)

Student and Volunteer Success Stories

The dictionary: a significant asset in prison

The Prison Book Program is so overwhelmingly important to prisoners in the correctional facilities because it helps us prisoners build our mental perspective on life. I mean lets face it, a lot of inmates have a "cowboys and Indians" approach or outlook on life. When an inmate reads a book or anybody for that matter, their immediate actions and decisions are largely determined by the ideas and points given in the book. When a person reads a book not only is their actions influenced but their emotions are influenced as well.
Books help them open their minds to a vast panorama of ideas that can be implemented to help them become a better or worse person depending on what perception they receive from the literature. I guess this is one of the reasons inmates like dictionaries so much. A lot of inmates once they expand their mental view from reading. In order not to be put into this situation where you feel guilty because you admitted to something that you did not understand, inmates like to study the dictionary so they will be on the same vocabulary level as the inmates who have knowledge of these words and who are not ignorant to their definition so that they will not be manipulated by them.
Thus bringing me to the conclusion that the dictionary has been the most significant asset literally speaking to me since I have been in prison, because it has helped me to understand the vocabulary that different inmates and officers have tried to manipulate me with.
If I can add though, it would help to have English/Spanish dictionaries as well because a lot of us can't talk to our Spanish speaking counterparts because we can't understand them.
I thank you for your time and patience and for listening.
-Submitted by Javon Lindsay
Laurinburg, North Carolina

Essay – Books are doorways

Books are magical objects. When a person opens the cover of a book, they are opening a door into another time or place. People that are trapped in the clutches of the so called 'justice system' are the loneliest people in the world. Degraded and dehumanized, everyday is Hell. Lots of good people surrounded by predators. There are many kind gentle souls locked up in prison. There are even more cruel, angry animals. Unfortunately, they are mixed together even sharing cells. Sometimes the only escape from unpleasant, filthy, heartbreaking situations is to lose yourself in a book. A person's reality is where their mind is focused. Without books, a prisoner would be forced to see the box they are confined to. Four brick walls, lots of ugly metal fixtures, an open toilet, make up their world. Obnoxious smells, odors, noises, screams, thumping rap 'music', and hate pollute the air, thick like smog. These things disappear, at least for awhile, when a person's reality is the book they are reading.

Books are doorways into another dimension and imagination is the key that unlocks them. Sometimes, the ability to leave an intolerable situation, if only for an hour, is the only thing keeping a person sane. A prisoner, like someone being abused or beaten, needs to leave their body momentarily. This must be a survival mechanism inherited from our ancestors. Just like the "fight or flight" reaction, there is an "escape the body" one too.

Books have been created by humans to enter another state of mind. Books are learning devices and time machines. Books are records of what our ancestors thought. They are records of historical events and glimpses of far away places, people, events, real or imagined. The information contained in books can bring comfort to suffering people and inspire others into changing the way they live their lives and interact with other people. People from small towns can learn about the great wide world that exists out there. Lonely people, gays for instance, can realize they are not alone, there are others like them that have gone through the same things they have. Minorities can see that people from similar situations they grew up in have gone on to create successful lives for themselves. Sometimes, characters in books can become friends in a lonely persons mind and heart. Books are physical manifestations of the imagination.

-Submitted by Michael E. Heller
Pinckneyville Correction Center, Illinois

Program’s Demographics/Metrics

Prison Book Program sent over 12,000 packages of books to incarcerated individuals across the US in 2017. Join us to help improve literacy for prisoners.

As of December 2017, PBP is operating at a backlog of just 4 weeks (from receipt of letter to outbound package). While 4 weeks sounds like a long time, this is one of the shortest backlogs in the history of the program. A short backlog ensures that prisoners' needs are met quickly, and that postage and books are not wasted when inmates are moved or
released.

Program Status:
Active