This semester in our Women and Gender Studies class: Power, Privilege and Gender Studies, we learned about the prison industrial complex, the increase in the U.S. prison population over the last twenty years across the United States and the disproportionate incarceration of people of lower socio-economic status and people of color. The United States is about 5% of the worlds’ total population and yet we have 25% of the world’s prison population.
During the semester, a supervisor of the Books to Prisoners Project “spoke” to our class via Skype teach us about the efforts that her organization is making to send high quality, educational and empowering books to prisoners who may not otherwise have access to the reading material due to cuts in prison library budgets. The Seattle-based project inspired our small group to get into contact with the Women’s Prison Book Project in Minneapolis, an organization that has worked to donate books to women and transgender individuals in prisons in Minnesota since 1994.
According to the Women’s Prison Book Project’s website, of the 2 million people in prison in America, 150 thousand of them are women. Of those 150 thousand, 80 percent of women are locked up for non-violent crimes like prostitution, shoplifting, fraud and drug-related convictions. The majority of women that are in prison for violent crimes, were convicted for defending themselves or their children against abuse.
This week we are working to collect high quality books for the Women’s Prison Book Project to send to prisoners who need them. We have collected books with an educational purpose– specifically dictionaries, technical skills books, self-help and women’s health books. The Women’s Prison Book Project spends roughly $300 to $400 per week on postage to send books to the prisons where they will be used. Our group will have a table from 11am-4pm on Tuesday, May 6 in the Kryzsko Lower Hyphen if you would like to donate your textbooks or any money for postage.
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