Olympia Books to Prisoners works to offset the dehumanizing effects of incarceration by sending quality used books free of charge to prisoners all over the United States.
Books to Prisoners is completely volunteer operated, and our selection of books comes entirely through donations. We could not provide this vital service without the support of our community. The organization is managed by a small, non-hierarchical collective committed to consensus-based decision-making. Somebody once referred to us as a bunch of radical librarians, and we were pretty pleased with that description.
Books to Prisoners was started in Seattle in the 1970’s when an inmate wrote to Left Bank Books, a radical bookstore in Pike Place, asking if they could please send him books on anarchism even though he didn’t have the money to pay for them. Left Bank sent him some books, and he told some of his friends about it. Soon the small shop was receiving more requests for free literature than it could feasibly fill, so the idea to solicit donations of books to send to inmates was born and evolved into Books to Prisoners, an organization that sends over 10,000 packages of books to incarcerated individuals across the US every year.
The Olympia chapter is one of four; the others are located in Seattle, Spokane, and Portland. We were founded in the early 1990’s when a community member named Long-Haired David visited the Seattle location. He liked what he saw and wanted to know how best to help; they recommended starting a chapter in the South Sound. In the past 25 years we have been located everywhere from storefronts to storage units, unfinished basements to our current swanky and sunny location on the Evergreen State College Campus. We are committed to remaining a small grassroots organization, and a place where folks can provide direct aid in solidarity with prisoners.
Olympia Books to Prisoners is no longer hosting drop-in volunteers. If you think you might be interested in making a long-term commitment to work with us, please send us an email. If you are interested in a one-time volunteer session (such as a community group or school class), please send us an email. (Updated 5/12/23)
Other ways you can support Books to Prisoners:
- Make a financial donation via our PayPal Donation link (we are still sending out books)
- Buy some dictionaries ($4.49 at Thriftbooks) and donate them to us
- Review our book donation page and contact us to make arrangements for a donation drop-off
- Sell your used books at Orca Books or Last Word Books and donate the credit to our Books To Prisoners account
If you would like to learn more about prisons in America or to make a pen-pal connection with an inmate, go to our Resources page for more information.