“Thank you so much for the books! I really appreciate what you all do and I think it’s great. I really, truly, wish there was more I could do besides just say “Thank you.” I’m such an avid reader and there are so many like us who have no way of receiving new books. I’m truly GRATEFUL for all you do.” — letter from Virginia, incarcerated in North Carolina.
The N.C. Women’s* Prison Book Project (formerly Durham Prison Books Collective) is an all volunteer run collective that sends books and letters to people incarcerated in women’s prisons and jails across North Carolina. As a locally-oriented project engaged in our own community, we also send books and letters to people detained in the Durham County Jail.
We send approximately 15-25 packages of books and resource lists a week, spending between $50-70 dollars on postage. To continue providing this vital and life-giving service, we are in urgent need of your financial donation to help us cover the costs of postage, shipping materials, and used books. Every cent you donate goes directly into the packages we send.
Spending all or part of your life in a cage is isolating, stifling, and full of heartbreak, as many people are separated from their children and loved ones. Prison book projects offer one small way to break the isolation and to act in solidarity with the nearly 3,000 people incarcerated in women’s facilities in North Carolina. In addition to this, on any given day there are between 400-500 people detained in the Durham County Jail. It is not uncommon for us to build relationships with folks who have been inside and write to us frequently. We hear about illnesses, family, healing journeys, study interests, parole and release dates, and the realities of life inside. Your donation enables us to continue building these relationships!
Our project focuses specifically on sending reading materials to women in prisons in North Carolina, recognizing that women are an often invisible part of the story we tell about incarceration in the U.S. In fact, women have become the fastest growing segment of the incarcerated population, with an 834% increase over the last 40 years (Prison Policy Initiative 2018). We also honor the legacy of women’s prison organizing in North Carolina, especially the 1975 revolt in North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (NCCIW) in which organizers boldly claimed “We asked for life!”**
*We recognize that not all people incarcerated in women’s facilities necessarily identify as a woman. Trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people are subject to hyper-policing and incarceration. To learn more about this, we recommend Captive genders: Trans embodiment and the prison industrial complex, edited by Eric A. Stanley and Nat Smith.
**For more information on the NCCIW uprising, and to learn more about the history of resistance in the South, see Dixie be damned: 300 years of insurrection in the American south by Neal Shirley and Saralee Stafford.