What we do
Since 1994, the Women’s Prison Book Project (WPBP) has provided women and transgender persons in prison with free reading materials covering a wide range of topics from law and education (dictionaries, GED, etc.) to fiction, politics, history, and women’s health. We are an all-volunteer, grassroots organization. We seek to build connections with those behind the walls, and to educate those of us on the outside about the realities of prison and the justice system.
Of the more than two million people confined in U.S. prisons and jails, over 150,000 are women. Eighty percent of these women are imprisoned for non–violent crimes, such as shoplifting, prostitution, drug-related convictions, and fraud. Of the women convicted of violent crimes, the vast majority were convicted for defending themselves or their children from abuse. More than half of all women in prison are women of color, and two–thirds of women in prison have at least one child under age eighteen. Most of these mothers had primary custody of their children before going to prison.
These facts mean that women in prison have specific needs for particular kinds of information: material on families, children, women’s self-help, women’s health, and legal aid pertaining to women who fight back against their abusers. Many lesbian, bisexual, and transgender prisoners often have trouble obtaining information that is relevant to their lives. As new prisons are built to warehouse the growing number of incarcerated people in the U.S., the meager resources previously available to prisoners are being cut or limited. WPBP is one place where women/transgender persons in prison can obtain information that is often unavailable from any other source. WPBP works to support prisoners; and through that solidarity works to empower prisoners themselves and build connections through prison walls.
We recognize that flaws and inequities throughout the “justice” system act to control and suppress the lives/movements of the poor, women, and all people of color. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and we urge all progressive people to consider prison issues an an integral part of the struggle for sweeping social change. As activists on the outside, WPBP provides vital support to women political prisoners and prisoners of war in the U.S. prisons and jails.