APBP grew out of a 2004 graduate course on the history and literature of imprisonment taught by English Professor Katy Ryan at West Virginia University (WVU). For the next two years, a group of students, faculty, and community members collected books, raised money, and studied the history of prison book projects. In 2006, APBP moved into the Aull Center and mailed its first book.

In 2012, APBP became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

In 2014, APBP held an Educational Justice & Appalachian Prisons Symposium. Funded by a West Virginia Humanities Council grant and cosponsored by the WVU English Department, the three-day event brought together more than 200 scholars, public officials, prison employees, students, lawyers, artists, leaders of higher education in prison programs, and community members. Keynote speakers were Dwayne Betts, Kyes Stevens, and Rebecca Ginsberg.

As a result of connections made at the symposium, APBP launched its first book club in the fall of 2014 at the women’s prison at Hazelton Correctional Center. Two years later, APBP began a second book club in the men’s medium-security prison at Hazelton. A third book club took place at the Hazelton Prison Camp in fall of 2019. These year-round book clubs developed into dynamic reading and writing communities.

The most recent turn in APBP’s educational work has been to provide tuition for incarcerated students in WVU’s credit-bearing Inside-Out courses. The first class took place in the fall of 2019 at SCI-Fayette in Pennsylvania, and the second one took place in spring of 2020 at SCI-Greene in Pennsylvania.

While facilitating prison book clubs and establishing credit-bearing classes behind bars, APBP has continued sending free books to people in prison. As of 2023, we have mailed over 65,000 books to incarcerated people across Appalachia.


2004: Founded
2006: Moved into the Aull Center
2012: Became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization
2014: Hosted a national symposium on Educational Justice and Appalachian Prisons
2014: Started first book club at the women’s prison at Hazelton Correctional Center
2016: Started a second book club at the men’s medium-security prison at Hazelton
2019: First credit-bearing WVU Inside-Out class at SCI Fayette; started a third book club at the camp at Hazelton; launched “Right to Read” tablet campaign
2021: Sent out 50,000th book