The Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) is a nonprofit organization that sends free books to women and men imprisoned in six states in the Appalachian region: West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee.
APBP is a labor-intensive effort that requires books, volunteers, money for postage and supplies, and lots of organizing. A fantastic team of volunteers responds to letters from imprisoned people who are looking for reading materials. The Project receives approximately 80 letters every week.
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. We also believe that education is a human right that extends to those who are serving long terms and may not have the chance to leave prison.
Founded in 2004 by West Virginia University Professor Katy Ryan, the organization grew out of a graduate course on American prison literature. In 2014, APBP began to facilitate a book club in a women’s federal prison. In 2016, a second book club began in a men’s federal prison.
“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, novelist and APBP board member
“Prison-based education is the single most effective tool in reducing recidivism.” —Report by the National Institute of Justice to the US Congress