books-and-envelope

Frequently Asked Questions

Read our list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) to learn more about APBP, our mission, and the services we provide. If you have a question that isn’t answered, please contact us.

FAQs About APBP

What is APBP?

The Appalachian Prison Book Project (APBP) is a volunteer-led, grassroots 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that was founded in 2004. APBP is dedicated to providing books and education to incarcerated people and creating opportunities for volunteers and the community to learn about the U.S. legal and prison systems.

What states does APBP serve?

APBP currently serves over 200 facilities in six US states: West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Maryland.

What kinds of books do people typically request?

The most requested genres are dictionaries and reference books, including thesauri, almanacs, law and legal dictionaries, and foreign language dictionaries.

Educational books are also highly requested. Many people are interested in how-to books, whether about crafting, exercise, starting a business, learning a trade, etc.

Popular fiction books like mysteries, thrillers, and science fiction are also in high demand.

APBP has a continually updated Amazon Wish List of frequently requested books that we don’t often get as donations.

Why are dictionaries so popular among people in prison?

There are several reasons why dictionaries are so popular on the inside.

The ability to self-educate is one of many ways people’s lives can be improved beyond prison walls, and dictionaries can play a big role.

Striving to learn new words and concepts is something all of us can relate to, but without a dictionary, imagine how much harder that would be. It is easy for us to take for granted the ability to look up a word, but in prison, a dictionary is not something that is provided to people.

Sending and receiving USPS mail can be an incarcerated person’s most important connection to the outside world, and dictionaries can assist them in choosing the best words to convey their thoughts. Dictionaries and reference books are also helpful when navigating complicated passages from other books.

Additionally, people in prison also often have to read complicated legal documents, and dictionaries can help decipher that language.

Where does APBP get books?

The overwhelming majority of APBP’s books come from generous donations from individuals. We also receive books from authors and publishers.

APBP also uses budgetary funds to purchase dictionaries when needed or multiples copies of books for book clubs.

APBP has a continually updated Amazon Wish List of frequently requested books that we don’t often get as donations.

Why does APBP send books to people in prison?

Here at APBP, we believe that education is a basic human right and that engaging the community in educational justice efforts is a requisite component to building sustainable restorative justice models.

APBP strives to work against mass incarceration by providing books and educational opportunities to incarcerated people while finding ways for volunteers and the community at large to learn more about the United States’ legal and prison systems.

How many books has APBP sent to people in prison?

Since APBP’s foundation in 2004, we have mailed over 45,000 books into prisons.

What does APBP spend donations on?

Most donation money goes towards postage expenses for shipping books to prisons and jails. APBP also uses donation money to rent our Post Office box, to purchase books as needed, and to purchase supplies for wrapping and shipping books. We greatly appreciate and make use of every donation we receive.

How much does it cost to mail a book?

APBP mails books through the United States Postal Service (USPS). It costs $50 to mail 15 books. Individuals packages typically cost between $3.00 and $3.50.

APBP uses USPS Media Mail, which offers a discount when mailing media such as books, magazines, records, etc.

FAQs About Our Services

How can I donate books to APBP?

There are two options for donating books to APBP: in-person or via mail.

If you have no more than two boxes of books, you can drop them off in-person at APBP’s office on the second floor of the Aull Center (351 Spruce Street, Morgantown, WV). Please do not leave books on the porch or on the first floor.

APBP also accepts book donations through mail, with a maximum of two medium-sized boxes per donation. You can ship them to our mailing address:

Appalachian Prison Book Project
P.O. Box 601
Morgantown, WV 26507

Every donation APBP receives is greatly appreciated and will be put to good use. Please limit your donation to paperback books in good condition. We limit our supply of hardback books because most prisons will not accept them.

What genres of books can people request?

People can request a wide variety of book genres. A comprehensive list of book categories and genres can be found on our website.

I want to volunteer with APBP. How do I start?

Contact us and let us know you’re interested!

Before you start volunteering with APBP, you must complete a volunteer training session. Due to the pandemic, we have moved our volunteer training sessions online. Volunteers are required to watch a 30-minute informative video and attend an hour-long training session, conducted remotely over Zoom, where you will meet other volunteers and get the answers to any questions you have.

How can I request books for someone in prison?

If you know someone incarcerated in our region, we would be happy to send them a book. Email us or send a letter to our address:

Appalachian Prison Book Project
P.O. Box 601
Morgantown, WV 26507

Make sure to include the person’s full name and prison ID number, their mailing address, and the types and genres of books they enjoy. We will send them a book along with more information for how to request books from us in the future.

What kinds of books does APBP accept?

APBP accepts paperback books in good condition—no ripped pages, torn covers, or writing. It is important that book recipients receive reading material that feels like their own and maintains its quality over time.

Prisons also have strict requirements for reading material allowed in their facilities. Prisons are more likely to reject hardback books and books with graphically violent content, nudity, or regional maps, so we cannot accept donations that fall into those categories.

APBP doesn’t serve my state. Where can I find other prison book programs?

There are 20+ other prison book programs that serve many different regions of the United States. View the prison book network list to find an organization near you.

Why can’t APBP send books to [prison]?

Though APBP wishes we could send books to every prison and jail in our region, there are many rules and regulations we have to follow. The Bureau of Prisons, state prisons, and county jails have different mailing rules and book regulations. We are not allowed to send books to every prison and jail in our six-state region.

There are complicated webs of rules and regulations regarding mailing books to people in prison. Some prisons and jails do not allow any mailed books into their facilities. Some accept paperback books but not hardback books. Some prisons only accept books from publishers or suppliers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

If you want to know if we can send books to a specific prison or jail, please contact us.

How does someone in prison request books?

People in prison can request books from APBP by writing a letter and mailing it to our address:

Appalachian Prison Book Project
P.O. Box 601
Morgantown, WV 26507

We also accept book requests via CorrLinks.

In the request, please include your name, prison ID number, mailing address, and the types and genres of books you want to receive. We will respond to you as soon as we can.

Can I mail book donations to APBP?

Yes! You may donate books to APBP using the following address:

Appalachian Prison Book Project
P.O. Box 601
Morgantown, WV 26507

We request that donations are a maximum of two medium-sized boxes. Items should be sent as Media Mail, a cost-effective and traceable way to send media materials through the USPS, rather than as Priority Mail.

For more questions about mail donations, contact us.

What do volunteers do?

There are three main tasks volunteers at APBP do: letter opening, book matching, and book wrapping.

Letter opening involves opening and reading letters from incarcerated individuals and looking for book requests, pen pal requests, requests for college credits, etc. Volunteers highlight their requests and organize the letters based on similar requests and the date they were postmarked.

Book matching involves reading the highlighted book requests from letters needing a response, choosing a book that matches what the individual is looking for, and putting the letter inside of it. Matchers also take an APBP information sheet, write a personalized message to the recipient on it, and place the sheet inside of the book.

Book wrapping involves logging the book and where it is being mailed as well as wrapping the book in brown paper to prepare it for the mail. Volunteers ensure that the book contains an APBP information sheet with a personalized note written on it, then wrap the book and address the package correctly. Volunteers then mark that the letter request has been completed and organize the letters by the date they were postmarked.

Where do people volunteer?

The Morgantown Public Library (MPLS) has graciously donated APBP a room on the second floor of the Aull Center, located at 351 Spruce Street in Morgantown, WV. This is where most volunteering takes place.

The Aull Center’s hours are as follows:

Mondays, 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Tuesdays, 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Wednesdays, 9:00 a.m.–7:00 p.m.
Thursdays, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Fridays, 9:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Saturdays, 9:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m.
Sundays, CLOSED

The Aull Center may be closed for holidays or in-service days. Check the MPLS website for updates on Aull Center hours.

Can I volunteer for APBP remotely?

Yes! If you live in or near Morgantown, WV, remote volunteering is possible. You must have completed the Zoom volunteer training session before you can begin volunteering.

Letter openers will find shoe boxes of letters on or near the desk in APBP’s Aull Center office to be taken home, opened, highlighted, and returned.

Book matching must be done in APBP’s office on the second floor of the Aull Center.

Book wrappers will find a tote with rubber-banded books and supplies in the Aull Center office. If there are no totes prepared, you can make their own totes. You should place the rubber-banded books on the shelf in the office into a tote bag, and make sure you have all the wrapping materials needed. You will sign the sheet to indicate that you took a tote, log and wrap the books, and return them along with the supplies.

Does APBP have drop offs in other parts of the region?

APBP does not have drop off locations in other parts of the region. Donations can be mailed to the following address:

Appalachian Prison Book Project
P.O. Box 601
Morgantown, WV 26507

Does APBP take checks? Paypal?

We accept donations via check or Paypal.

APBP is mainly funded by individual donors. We are extremely appreciative of every donation we receive.

Can I host a book drive for APBP?

Yes you can! We request that you first look over our book donation guidelines. Feel free to contact us if you have other questions about book drives. We appreciate the support.