Honorable Mention, Innovations in Reading Prize, 2016
LGBT BOOKS TO PRISONERS
Honorable Mention, 2016 Innovations in Reading Prize
LGBT Books to Prisoners sends books and educational material to LGBTQ-identified people in prisons across the country. This work seeks to affirm the dignity of all individuals – particularly the over-incarcerated populations of people of color, poor people, queer and gender nonconforming people, and people with mental illnesses – by providing access to free literature of their choosing.
Operating as a donation-funded, all-volunteer collective, LGBT Books to Prisoners has sent books to over 5,500 people since its founding, and mailed over 3,000 packages of books in 2015. The individually selected reading materials offer information of each person’s choosing and provide a means for LGBTQ incarcerated people to explore and develop their self-identities without fear of judgment. Though other organizations send prisoners much-needed resources, LGBT Books to Prisoners is uniquely equipped to respond to requests from LGBTQ people.
This population is highly marginalized. A 2015 study reports that 70 percent of the LGBT prisoners experienced discrimination or verbal harassment from prison staff; that a large number lacked gender-affirming information and services; and that 71 percent entered prison without completing high school. While our work only fights against aspects of these problems, it has served as a lifeline for individuals across the country. As Don, a prisoner in California who received a package from LGBT Books to Prisoners, wrote, “There are a fair amount of GLBTQ people in prison... We're the lowest on the social totem pole. No one has an easy experience in prison. Being different, queer, means that your journey will be much harder… Books are, for a lot of us, the only friends we have.”
You can learn about this year's honorable mentions here, or explore the impact of Innovations in Reading honored programs in our new infographic.