Inside Books Project is an Austin-based community service volunteer organization that sends free books and educational materials to prisoners in Texas. Inside Books is the only books-to-prisoners program in Texas, where over 140,000 people are incarcerated. Inside Books Project works to promote reading, literacy, and education among incarcerated individuals and to educate the general public on issues of incarceration.
Inside Books Project needs you! Here's how you can get involved:
Volunteers open letters from inmates, select books to best fit the request, and make packages of books to send back to each inmate. The books selected by the volunteers become the personal property of each inmate.
Inside Books Project is maintained entirely by donations of money, books, and volunteer time. Inside Books Project is always in need of cash donations for postage, book donations for our library and volunteers to mail books to inmates.
Inside Books Project hosts regular volunteer hours every Thursday and Sunday night and every second Monday of the month during the day. We also sell books at the HOPE market and have special events including weekend volunteer events, fundraisers, film screenings, and more.
Inside Books receives written requests from inmates for books and resource guides. The books we send back become the personal property of the prisoner who requested them. In 2014, we received over 18,000 requests and sent out over 35,000 free books to prisoners. During each volunteer session, dozens of volunteers learn about the hopes and challenges of Texas inmates from personally reading and responding to their requests.
We believe that every prisoner has the right to quality reading and educational materials, and that reading, learning, and self-expression are invaluable opportunities that are too often denied to Texas inmates. Cuts to prison education programs and libraries continue to highlight the emphasis on punishment over rehabilitation. The benefits of literacy in inmates’ post-incarceration lives are well-documented, and evidence points to a beneficial relationship between additional reading and increased literacy.
We rely upon our volunteers and community to donate their time, books, and money. We hold two volunteer sessions a week where volunteers read prisoner requests, select books, write responses, and create packages. Core volunteers solicit book donations, send packages, pick up donated books, staff volunteer nights, and plan fundraising events. We are powered by our community!
Inside Books Project was founded in 1998 and obtained status as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2012. Inside Books has always been a community-focused and volunteer-run organization.
2004: Voted “Best Volunteer Organization” in Austin Chronicle
2009: Moved into Space 12, a community activity center in East Austin
2012: Obtained 501(c)(3) nonprofit status