The Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) is a nonprofit organization that sends free books to people imprisoned in the Appalachian region. APBP also facilitates year-round book clubs inside a federal prison in West Virginia.
APBP grew out of an American prison literature course taught by Katy Ryan in 2004 at West Virginia University. Since then, APBP has mailed over 20,000 free books to people in prison in six states: West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Maryland.
Closely affiliated with a land-grant research institution, APBP provides internships and service-learning opportunities to undergraduates, graduate students, and law students, and encourages interdisciplinary research among faculty and students. APBP sponsors lectures, symposia, films, performances, and other educational events related to mass incarceration.
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.
“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
2006 Moved into the Aull Center
2012 Became a nonprofit
2014 Hosted a national symposium on Educational Justice and Appalachian Prisons
2014 Started first book club at the women’s prison at Hazelton Correctional Center
2016 Started a second book club at the men’s medium-security prison at Hazelton
2017 Sent out its 20,000 book