I knew right there in prison that reading had changed forever the course of my life. As I see it today, the ability to read awoke inside me some long dormant craving to be mentally alive.
—Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) is a tax-exempt 501c3 nonprofit organization that sends free books to women and men who are imprisoned in the Appalachian region. The Project sends books to West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. Many prisons lack adequate libraries, and books can be a real life line to people doing time. Studies have repeatedly shown that recidivism rates go down when people in prison have access to educational programs. APBP considers its work part of this larger social goal.
Founded by Katy Ryan and members of her graduate prison literature course in the fall of 2004, APBP is a labor-intensive effort that requires books, volunteers, money for postage and supplies, and lots of organizing. Volunteers respond to individual letters from imprisoned people requesting reading materials. The Project receives approximately 80 letters every week.
”There are more than seven thousand men and women incarcerated in West Virginia alone, and most of them are living with few resources by which to better their lives. Books are food for the soul and the intellect.”
—Mark Brazaitis, APBP member and award-winning author
“Prison-based education is the single most effective tool in reducing recidivism. “
—Report by the National Institute of Justice to the US Congress