The Prison Library Project
The Prison Library Project’s mission is to provide free reading materials to inmates nationwide. We prioritize educational and self-help literature and recognize the value of literacy development through active engagement with books in general.
Our goal is to promote literacy, personal responsibility, reflection, and growth.
The Prison Library Project was founded in 1973 by Ram Dass and Bo Lozoff in Durham, North Carolina and relocated to Claremont in 1986.
Located in the Claremont Forum’s Bookshop & Gallery in Claremont’s historic Citrus Packing House, The Prison Library Project was been a Claremont institution since 1986 and is now a major service project of the Claremont Forum.
The Prison Library Project has grown into a sizable volunteer organization with a distinct vision and identity. The purpose of the Project is to supply books, free of charge, to any inmate who requests them. We try to provide an ongoing invitation to prisoners to embrace responsibility, growth, and a deeper appreciation for the world of books, ideas, and education.
The Prison Library Project is a volunteer community service project. The program is led and sustained by volunteers and donors who believe in providing books to prisoners and bringing compassion and education to the men and women who reach out to us.
What We Do
The PLP receives more than 300 letters a week from inmates in 600 state and federal prisons and detention centers throughout the United States.
We mail over 15,000 packages of books each year to individual inmates. We also send boxes of books to prison librarians, educators, and chaplains. Our weekly postage bill is about $600. We raised and spent over $32,000 in postage in 2018.
We affirm and respect the basic human rights of every person whether or not they are incarcerated and believe that intellectual freedom is in the public interest. We support an informed citizen base and assert that all people have a right to access information.
Prison book program unity statement
Amazon Wish List
The Prison Library Project has an ongoing need for dictionaries and educational resources. Click the button below to see the current PLP wish list. Purchasing one or more of the books on the list would be greatly appreciated! You can even ship the books directly to us.
Send to The Prison Library Project c/o the Claremont Forum: 586 W. 1st St., Claremont, CA 91711
AmazonSmile is a simple and automatic way for you to support us, at no cost to you. When you shop at smile.amazon.com, you’ll find the exact same low prices, vast selection and convenient shopping experience as at Amazon.com, with the added bonus that Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to The Claremont Forum.
Here’s how it works. On your first visit to AmazonSmile, select The Claremont Forum as the charitable organization to receive donations from your eligible purchases before you begin shopping. Every eligible purchase you make thereafter will result in a donation. Click the button below to get started!
Why Are Dictionaries So Important?
Dictionaries represent about 25% of the requests we receive, and we send out approximately 200 dictionaries per month at a cost of roughly $1,000 (plus postage). However, we must purchase NEW dictionaries because, in most states, prisoners are not allowed to receive used dictionaries. Sadly, we are not currently able to respond to all requests for dictionaries, because of the expense to purchase new ones.
Dictionaries are a vital resource for inmates completing educational programs while incarcerated. We know that inmates who complete their education have a 43% lower rate of recidivism. ¹ The PLP believes in supporting these men and women with much-needed tools to improve their chance of success.
“When the prison gates slam behind an inmate, he does not lose his human quality; his mind does not become closed to ideas; his intellect does not cease to feed on a free and open interchange of opinions; his yearning for self-respect does not end; nor is his quest for self-realization concluded. If anything, the needs for identity and self-respect are more compelling in the dehumanizing prison environment.”
Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, 1974