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Grad Student Megan Lint Reflects on Reform

Prison reform has a long and complicated history. Reform is often defined as how people come out of prison “changed” and with a sense of autonomy (or even freedom), while others remain the same as before they went in.

When deprived of basic human rights, there is not much of a chance of reform. For example, in his autobiography, Malcolm X discusses his time at Charlestown prison as absolutely disgusting (no running water, defecating in pails, cramped and dirty cells). These conditions do not foster human growth in any way, and they definitely do not give any motivation for the man or woman to reform and change.

One incident that touches on this occurs when his friend Bimbi declares that “…the only difference between [those imprisoned] and outside people was that [they] had been caught.” By having a sense of empathy toward those who are incarcerated and allowing them the tools to foster their reform (e.g. educational materials), APBP recognizes that basic human right. The audience, when reading what Bimbi has to say, can see that maybe those in prison really aren’t so different from those on the outside. They have the same hopes and dreams, the same thirst for knowledge.

Malcolm X’s autobiography explains how reform and confinement are related: “I am not saying there shouldn’t be prisons, but there shouldn’t be bars. Behind bars, a man never reforms. He will never forget. He never will get completely over the memory of the bars.” Without any sense of self-control or freedom in prison, men and women come in and go out in the same way; they lack the will to change because of what they have been subjected to, a cage with iron bars. When those in prison are given the option to become autonomous and responsible for their own development, they have much more of a chance of becoming “reformed.”

Those in prison (and outside prison) are capable of change when provided opportunities. The writer Jimmy Santiago Baca developed a love for reading and literature in prison, despite considering it worthless before. He says that, when picking up some Wordsworth, “…a deep sadness overcame me, as I had chanced on a lost friend and mourned the years of separation.” This is an example of reform in itself. Baca begins to understand the value of written language because he has writing accessible to him.

Not all men and women in prison are so lucky—and this is why programs such as APBP exist. Fostering learning and growth in prison is essential for reform. The “power of language,” as Baca calls it, allows those people a sense of freedom and unlocks their potential as human beings, not merely “inmates” who exist to be punished. Baca’s statement about how writing and reading effected his mindset in prison sums it up best: “Through language I was free…The child in the dark room of my heart, who had never been able to find or reach the light switch, flicked it on now; and I found in the room a stranger, myself, who had waited so many years to speak again.”

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APBP wins Barrelhouse Magazine Amplifier Award

APBP has been awarded the 2019 Amplifier Award from Barrelhouse Magazine. We are so excited about this partnership that will help us promote writing and artwork by incarcerated people in West Virginia.

Special thanks to APBP Student President Rayna Momen who took lead on writing the grant, with expert assistance from Katie Vogelpohl. Our proposal built on years of work by Valerie Surrett, Yvonne Hammond, Alex Kessler, and Beth Staley who have been dedicated to the writing dimension of APBP.

We learned about the grant opportunity from a student in Katy Ryan’s prison autobiographies class, so thanks to Kenneth Lee for the tip!

From Barrelhouse: “We chose the Appalachian Prison Book Project because we admired their timely and important mission and their commitment to sustainable growth and financial stewardship. In their application, The Appalachian Prison Book Project identified a clear goal of using this money to increase the scope of their publishing arm, which includes literary magazine and anthology collections, enabling them to be dispersed to a wider audience.”

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New Design! by WVU Student Kristin & Incarcerated Artist Maurice

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25 January 2019 · 6:48 pm

Total Books Mailed

We mailed more books to imprisoned people in 2018 than in any previous year — more than 5,000. Here are the numbers as of October. Thanks to everyone who makes this work possible. We are excited to grow as a community in the new year.

APBP books sent by year (as of October 16, 2018)


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Quote from a 2018 Letter

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10 December 2018 · 3:22 pm

Support Educational Justice

eflyer 2018


10 December 2018 · 3:17 pm

APBP Featured in BuzzFeed News

APBP was recently featured in BuzzFeed News! Read the article, This Appalachian Nonprofit Puts Books in the Hands of Inmates Who Need Them, to learn about how we got started, what we do, and how we do it.


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