Our accomplishments & impact

The hard numbers…

Book distribution and public education

Created by Books Through Bars, Insiders’ Art is a book that features prisoners’ artwork, their descriptions of both their art and their lives, and commentary on the state of the prison industrial complex.
Created by Books Through Bars, Insiders’ Art is a book that features prisoners’ artwork, their descriptions of both their art and their lives, and commentary on the state of the prison industrial complex.

Each month, on average, we

  • Send  approximately 2,100 books to about 700 people incarcerated in Pennsylvania and surrounding states
  • Welcome around 75 new and returning volunteers to our space
  • Provide space for critical thought and dialogue for 100 participants in our Address This! correspondence program
  • Host two or more service-learning sessions with interfaith, community, school and youth groups
  • Save hundreds of books from the landfill!

Programming, activities, grants and awards

In addition, we have

  • Sent or delivered large donations of books to dozens of prison libraries
  • Coordinated art exhibitions of “Contexts,” a collection of artwork by prisoners, across the tri-state area, and published the book Insider’s Art: The Contexts Collection by Artists in Prison
  • Received grants from, among others, the Phoebus Criminal Justice Initiative/Bread and Roses Community Fund, the Sparkplug Foundation, and the Children Can Shape the Future Foundation
  • Provided consultation and guidance to emerging prison book programs around the country, and hosted the first-ever Prison Book Program National Conference
  • Hosted numerous events to raise awareness about prison issues, including a film festival, a public conversation on alternatives to prisons, and a display of quilts made by prisoner-volunteers in Angola’s hospice program
  • Celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2010!

…mean genuine, lasting change.

The best part of our work is knowing it makes a true difference: our work changes minds and hearts. In addition to the testimonials below, check out the slide show of thank-you letters we’ve received from prisoners.

“Books Through Bars has been a Godsend and blessing to me, and I’ve been taught by your example what being charitable and humane actually means. I’ve shifted my paradigm and now have this intense and burning desire to be a contributor, a giver, and a part of humanity and society.” —E.G., incarcerated in PA

“When I began volunteering with Books Through Bars, I had only a limited knowledge of the U.S. criminal justice system…I think I accepted the fact that most people in prison probably ‘deserved’ to be there. Volunteering with BTB has changed my whole outlook. Now I believe we need alternatives to prison for the majority of incarcerated people, better-funded schools, more youth programs, and safer communities to prevent people from going to prison in the first place. I thank BTB for spurring me on my journey.” —BTB volunteer

“The readings I’ve received are very informative and insightful. I’ve enjoyed the mental fulfillment and stimulation – very formidable material. All the info is of cultural, personal, ethical, and moral interest to me and my growth in becoming a better me.” —Address This! participant