Books to Prisoners Programs
BTP receives over 1,000 letters from prisoner’s each month, some of which are answered by our satellite organizations in Bellingham, Olympia and Portland. Volunteers work two evenings a week opening letters, finding books in our collection that correspond to the request, and wrapping and mailing parcels. Because of continuing backlog of requests, prisoners sometimes wait up to six months to receive their books.
Prisoners request a variety of books. Most prisons accept paperback books only. The most popular requests are dictionaries, thesauruses, African American history and fiction, Native American studies, legal material, GED materials, and languages (particularly Spanish.) Other common requests include fiction, vocational-technical manuals, politics, anthropology, art and drawing, psychology, and health and fitness.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
BTP has recently built strong relationships with local colleges and universities including the University of Washington and Shoreline Community College. BTP hopes that by exposing young people to the literacy and educational needs of prisoners we are creating a lasting concern for an underserved population. BTP regularly has 15 or more volunteers on any given evening. These new student volunteers are in addition to our 7-year relationship with the Mercer Island Volunteer Outreach in Communities Everywhere program for middle and high school students.
Currently, BTP is searching for at least one more grant partner to support a package of outreach, advertising, and publicity that will build on our existing outreach program. Our existing outreach program utilizes mostly free resources, such as online profiles; partnerships with local colleges and universities; fundraising events; and contact with local publications and broadcasting stations, and has resulted in a significant increase in the number of volunteers. The goal of the three-year outreach program is to raise BTP’s profile and deepen its pool of potential donors as well as its long-term, committed volunteers. BTP has proposed a three-year, $55,000 project, funded at $25,000 the first year and $15,000 the second and third years, which would be organized around three basic strategies:
1. Developing an active online presence and fundraising program.
2. Forging links with local civil rights, literacy, human rights, progressive politics, and social justice groups.
3. Advertising BTP’s mission and accomplishments to a selected local and national audience.
BTP has secured a $35,000 grant towards this project, contingent upon the participation of at least one other foundation or donor.