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.
We are entirely operated by volunteers, and our library is entirely stocked by donated books. We could not provide for what many inmates is a 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 donation 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, Bellingham, 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 22 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.