A NOTE FROM THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
The year 2023 has marked a challenging and rewarding time for the Claremont Forum's Prison Library Project. While navigating the lingering challenges of post-pandemic recovery, we have recently experienced a resurgence in the number of book requests. As we close 2023, we are excited to embark on what is likely going to be our busiest year yet. The recent surge in book requests, averaging between 500 to 600 letters per week, stands as a testament to our continuing impact.
Our achievements this year have been made possible through the unwavering support and generosity of our donors and volunteers. Their contributions have enabled us to send over 23,000 books directly to incarcerated individuals. Our outreach has extended beyond individual inmates. We have successfully equipped chaplains, institutional prison libraries, and educational study groups with collections of books and educational resources. In total, nearly 14,000 incarcerated men and women have been served by the PLP.
We remain steadfast in our commitment to enriching the lives of those behind bars through the power of literature. Our gratitude extends to all who have joined us in this mission, and we look forward to continuing and expanding our impact in the coming year.
OUR MISSION & VISION
At the Prison Library Project (PLP), we have been dedicated to enriching the lives of incarcerated individuals through literature since 1993. With limited access to reading materials in prisons, our mission is to fill this void by providing a diverse range of books and educational resources nationwide. PLP volunteers select books with care, aiming to inspire, educate, and empower our readers.
Recently, we have been able to provide a large number of GED study guides, vocational study guides, and other resources that assist inmates as they plan their transition out of prison.
Each year, we seek to reach even more incarcerated men and women. We know that these books serve as windows to the world outside, fostering literacy, aiding personal development, and offering solace and hope. Our impact extends beyond numbers; it resonates in the personal transformations and positive feedback we receive from inmates.
We understand that education is a powerful tool in breaking the cycle of recidivism. We also recognize the challenges in accessing quality educational resources in many U.S. prisons. Our vision is not only to provide books but also to advocate for better educational opportunities for incarcerated individuals.
YEAR IN REVIEW
This summer marked a significant milestone for the Prison Library Project, as we were honored with a Congressional Leadership Award by Representative Judy Chu. This prestigious honor recognized the PLP's crucial role in bridging diverse communities and promoting literacy among the incarcerated. We were thrilled to be acknowledged for our commitment to our mission and the diligent efforts of our volunteers.
Our connection with Judy Chu's office began when a congressional staffer, while shopping at our Bookshop, became impressed with the importance of our program. The staffer was struck by the dedication of our staff and volunteers who manage one of the largest books-to-prisoners programs in the country. It was a stroke of good luck that they had the opportunity to meet with our PLP director, Sergio Perez, who was able to explain our program and highlight our successes.
One of our most impactful stories this year comes from an inmate in Indiana who shared, “I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m grateful for everything you guys do. Groups like the PLP have been a big help in my mental health over the years. I really wish I could make you understand just how much you really do help me. A book is not just a book - it's a trip, a relationship, it's freedom for someone like me who has had freedom taken away. It's you guys at the PLP that make all that possible for us. Thank you!”
We were also happy to increase our bulk shipping of books to struggling prison libraries within institutions. A message from Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital in Columbia, SC, read, “I wanted to take the time to thank you for the outstanding variety of books that you provided us with! We are so excited to see our little library grow and expand as it has with the wonderful contributions we have received from incredible organizations like yours! Your help is greatly appreciated! You all are so awesome! Thank you so much!”
Despite facing rising postage costs and a major flood last spring that damaged our bookshop as well as new PLP supplies and books, our team and volunteers showed remarkable resilience. They coped with a leaking roof, moved thousands of books out of harm's way, and even slept in the bookshop on several nights when heavy rain was expected before roof repairs could be made!
Looking ahead, the recognition and achievements of this year inspire us to aim higher. We are excited to grow the PLP and continue to answer book requests, building upon our successes to deepen our impact in the years to come.
Fiscal Year Overview:
The fiscal year of 2023 has been marked as the most profitable year in the history of the Claremont Forum, with significant increases in income from various sources. Our organization continues to struggle to balance staff and overhead expenses, emergency repairs, and the general inflation of critical supplies. The board of directors has made important cuts to our annual budget in order to reduce overhead spending. Despite these challenges, we were able to answer the vast majority of book requests this year.
Diverse Income Streams for Program Stability:
Our accountant reported unprecedented earnings from the Claremont Forum Bookshop and the Sunday Farmers & Artisans Market, bolstered by generous donations. The Farmers Market, under Oscar de Leon's adept leadership, has been instrumental in covering the Bookshop's rent and staff costs, significantly contributing to our success in 2023. Our Bookshop Manager, Mckenna DeLuca, has been pivotal not only in driving our biggest year in book sales and merchandise but has also spearheaded various art programs, fundraisers, and supports our volunteers.
Donations: Over $50,000 was contributed by our donors, with an additional $1,000 worth of new books purchased from our wish list on bookshop.org. Donations also included thousands of dollars worth of dictionaries and other frequently requested books.
Postage: Reflecting our commitment to our core mission, over $35,000 was allocated for postage, enabling us to distribute books to prisoners nationwide.
Reinvestment of Funds: Donations were strategically reinvested into covering postage and supplies, ensuring the sustainability of our operations.
Looking Ahead to 2024:
We plan to increase our fundraising efforts and seek new grant opportunities.
Our focus remains on maximizing the impact of every dollar received and enhancing financial transparency.
We extend our heartfelt thanks to Mary Eddy and Blanton Bartlett, the Rauch Family Foundation, Douglas Wallace, and the donors and volunteers at Pilgrim's Place for their generous financial support in 2023. We also wish to express our deep appreciation to the City of Claremont for enabling the Claremont Forum to host the Sunday Farmers & Artisans Market. This event not only supports our overall mission of promoting wellness and the arts but also provides the crucial financial foundation necessary for the Prison Library Project.
Our gratitude also extends to all our donors who have financially supported us this year, and to our community for donating tens of thousands of exceptional books to our program. We are privileged to have the support of nearby churches and mosques, colleges, student groups, and local seniors, each of whom has shared treasured books with our program.
The strength and success of our organization is amplified by the many dedicated volunteers who generously donate their time and talent to both the Claremont Forum and the Prison Library Project. Thousands of hours were donated to our program - and this only represents those who signed in! We deeply appreciate our volunteers who work behind the scenes so diligently. Thank you all for your unwavering support.
GOALS FOR 2024
This year, our primary objective is to meet the surging demand for books and educational resources. In early January alone, we received over 600 letters in a single week, prompting our PLP volunteers to strategize new ways to handle this influx of book requests.
One of our key goals is to update our resource list that links prisoners with other support services. In collaboration with the Prison Activist Resource Center, we plan to revise and broaden our resource list. Our aim is to print at least 500 copies of our resource list to better assist those in need of information and support in areas such as legal aid, health, wellness, LGBTQ+ resources, and conflict resolution strategies.
Another focus for 2024 is to bolster study groups. Last year, we successfully assisted a group at Pelican Bay in starting a study group for the commercial driver's license exam and provided materials for inmates who are teaching others to read. Building on this momentum, we plan to extend our support to more groups seeking educational and self-improvement opportunities.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Financial Support: donations can be made on our website at claremontforum.org, or mailed to The Prison Library Project c/o The Claremont Forum, 586 W. 1st St., Claremont, CA 91711
Donate Books: donate your used books at the bookshop. We accept both paperback and hardcover books.
Shop: shopping at the Claremont Forum Bookshop in the Claremont Packing House, or at our weekly Farmers & Artisans Market supports our organization and makes the work of the PLP possible.
Volunteer: volunteer to read letters and wrap books for mailing. We also need volunteers with specialized skills in marketing, accounting, farmers market management, and nonprofit leadership.
We also welcome opportunities for Legacy giving, stock donations, sponsorships and community collaborations. Please write to email@example.com for more information.
Claremont Forum | Prison Library Project586 W. 1st St., Claremont, CA 91711