Books To Prisoners (BTP) is a Seattle-based nonprofit organization that sends free books to prisoners across the United States. BTP believes that books are tools for learning and for opening minds to new ideas and possibilities. By sending books to prisoners, we hope to foster a love of reading, to encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-improvement, and to break the cycle of recidivism.
BTP receives 1,000 to 1,300 requests for books each month. The most popular requests are dictionaries, thesauruses, African American history and fiction, Native American studies, legal materials, GED materials, and foreign language learning materials (particularly Spanish). Other common requests include genre fiction such as westerns and horror, vocational-technical manuals, politics, anthropology, art and drawing books (including blank notebooks), and books on paranormal phenomena. BTP relies on books donated by community members to answer these requests.
BTP depends on a dedicated group of volunteers, many of whom have been volunteering for years–or decades! Volunteers work four shifts each week to find books in our collection that fulfill prisoner requests, wrap parcels, and sort donations. Because of the popularity of the services offered by BTP, the organization often functions with a backlog of requests.
BTP was founded in the early 1970s and sponsored by Left Bank Books. As one of the largest and oldest prison book projects in the country, BTP works in conjunction with other agencies that support prisoner literacy and promote social justice. BTP has three associate organizations – Portland Books To Prisoners, Books To Prisoners Olympia, and Bellingham Books To Prisoners. These sister groups assist in answering letters, mailing packages, and soliciting book donations.