The United States accounts for only 5% of the world’s population and yet it locks up 25% of the world’s prisoners. As the number of incarcerated Americans rises every year, it becomes clearer and clearer that prisons do not solve the problems the criminal justice system is supposed to address. Instead, prisons traumatize prisoners, destabilize families and communities, and exacerbate racism, gender oppression, and economic inequality–social conditions that affect everyone inside and outside prison walls.

Sending free books is one way of showing solidarity with people trapped in the system and pushing back against the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). As we engage in this work, it is important to educate ourselves and our communities about the complexities of the PIC, historical and current forms of resistance, and alternatives that offer the possibility of a world without prisons.

This list is by no means comprehensive. It is a small collection of readings, videos, and other organizations that have informed our work and that we think are worth sharing.


Are Prisons Obsolete?, by Angela Davis

Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women, by Victoria Law

Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, by Alexander Berkman

Lockdown America: Police and Prisons in the Age of Crisis, by Christian Parenti

The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander

Resurrection, by Leo Tolstoy

Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson

American Prison, by Shane Bauer

Reports and Articles

Land of the Free: The Best Investigative Reporting on U.S. Prisons, roundup by ProPublica

The Abolitionist, a news publication by Critical Resistance

Banking on Bondage: Private Prisons and Mass Incarceration, report by The American Civil Liberties Union


The House I Live In, documentary by Eugene Jarecki

Midnight Express, drama based on a true story, directed by Alan Parker

13th, documentary by director Ava DuVernay

Transformative Justice

Restorative and Transformative Justice Resources, compiled by the Geschke Center at The University of San Francisco

Toward Transformative Justice, by Generation Five

Organizations and Projects

Critical Resistance

The Real Cost of Prisons Project

Prisoner Pen-Pal Sites

Write a Prisoner

Cell Pals

Prison PenPals

PenAmerica Writer’s Mentoring Program