Incarcerated people have few opportunities to speak to the outside world. At APBP, we value their contributions, and we’re here to listen. Take a look at what some voices from the inside have to say.
Quotes from Letters
“I want to thank you so much for the books you have sent me because they were my peace while I was locked in my cell.” — Petersburg, VA
“I was rather unenergetic this afternoon. The preparations for my creative writing class were going well, but I needed a boost; your extraordinary gift of the book The Writer’s Way by Sara Maitland arrived and my day is brighter, the class will be stronger, and your legacy of helpfulness endures.” — WV
“Thank you so much for all you have done for me. Because of your book program sending me Michie’s West Virginia Code Annotated,” I was able to litigate an amended sentence order from life without parole to eligibility for parole after serving 15 years. In other words, you helped save my life.” — Mt. Olive, WV
“I received the gardening book that you sent me about 3 weeks ago. Thank you very much. It is excellent and I have gotten lost in it for countless hours.” — Glenville, WV
“I just wanted to tell you that I received the books that you sent me. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your generosity. You have indeed put some sunshine in my rather drab life imprisoned as I am here on Death Row. . . There will be several other inmates here on Death Row that will be very glad to get a chance to read something new that they have an interest in.” — Nashville, TN
“I just wanted to write and say thank you for the book that I just received in the mail! ‘Legal Writing’ is just the book I need. While I was in college I took the basics of political science/law/government, but I didn’t learn everything that I need to know. This book is a huge help. Thank you again for everything you do for those of us here in their concentration camps.” — Chillicothe, OH
“I just received the dictionary I requested and ‘classic’ Hamlet you guys sent. Thanks for always being there 2 assist with the growth of my continued consciousness. Please never feel unappreciated in the job you do for those like myself. Yes, I was a hard headed child when I left the ‘free’ world, but a child nonetheless, so thank you for equipping me with the knowledge 2 grow as a man.” — Cumberland, MD
“Thank you so much for the dictionary and Bible. I especially like the Bible. It is the most explanatory Bible I’ve ever had . . . I probably already told you but my 91-year-old grandma is taking care of my mother, her daughter is 72 and they have had strokes last year. My mother had one the worst. She had one one day and my grandma had one the next day. My mother has diabetes, dementia, and psychosis. I really need to learn all I can so I can be of more help to my grandmother and mother. My grandmother has dementia too.” — Saluda, VA
“I am a tutor for the women who are working towards obtaining their GED. I am looking for a dictionary as well as a science book that covers anywhere from middle school to high school level science. Thank you for your time and donation.” — Kenning, TN
“I am in prison for life and it really is good to have places that will help people like me. Thank you a lot for your help.” — Oakwood, VA
“First of all, thank you for providing books directly to prisoners free of charge. Yours is a great service, especially for those whose library’s collection is meager, outdated, or otherwise inadequate and who simply do not have the funds to buy books out of their own pockets.” — Memphis, TN
“This letter is to thank you for the book I received from you entitled ‘Team of Rivals.’ About two years ago I began studying American history, and I have already covered from the Revolution through the Mexican American war . . . You had no way of knowing this, but the book fits in perfectly with my current period of study. You folks are the BEST!” — Lisbon, OH
“Thanks for forwarding me the murder mystery book. However I was unable to receive it because there was no enclosed invoice slip. I disputed this issue with the mailroom personnel and subsequently was momentarily placed in confinement over it . . . Just an example of the lifestyle I am (as well as everyone else) must confront daily.” — St. Clairsville, OH
“I received the Tom Clancey book that you sent to me and I want to take this time to thank you so very much for sending it to me. I really love these types of books with the intrigue and the action and so forth . . . As before, when I am finished with this book, I will donate it to the compound library where everyone here will have the opportunity to enjoy it as much as I do.” — Clifton, TN
“If possible can you please send me a book to read? I would really like to read about women in the old west and how they helped to make this country. Historical fiction would also be great or anything about Martha Washington or any of the queers of England would be great.” — Wartburg, TN
“You all are helping inmates out so much. Reading will pass time when a person is stressed out and missing their families. Thank you again.”
“I’ve received books in the past from your organization. Thank you so much. Last year I wrote to you about a situation in prison where I was attacked by cellmate, stabbed in head, and suffered a broken leg. You sent me a book from Aspen publishers titled ‘Civil Procedure’ by Joseph W. Glannon. That book was a great help to me. I’ve completed the civil claim, and having it reviewed by an attorney for mistakes.” — Oakwood, VA
“Thank you for your time. Not many people would take the time to make sure someone in prison had a book to read. I was always a big fan of R.I.F. (Reading Is Fundamental) in the ‘70s when I was in school. So that’s kinda what you guys remind me of.” — Whiteville, TN
“Thank you so much for my copy of Vampyrrhic! I loved it! As I have said before not many people want to fool with us old convicts.” — Whiteville, TN
“I recently heard about your books for prisoners project. I got excited because reading is my favorite thing to do. We have a small library here, but all they have is fiction. I am a bigger fan of non-fiction, though. I love learning new stuff because I want to get out better and smarter than I came in. They don’t have any classes here so I have to rely on books and magazines from the outside.'” — Nashville, TN
“Thank you for the recent gift (‘Sense and Sensibility’ by Jane Austen). I’ve enjoyed all of the Austen novels I’ve read. In fact, I’ve enjoyed all the classical literature you have sent me, including ‘Emma!'” — Lisbon, OH
“I am a mother of 3 and I need the following: Parenting, Parents, Child, Family Fun, Family Circle, Working Mother, etc. in magazines. Old is fine . . . Potty Training—anything for 2-5 years old—Help!” — Virginia
“I stayed up and read the book all night. I really did enjoy the book and I thank you again. I love reading . . . I have one more request, for a Scrabble dictionary that would stop a lot of fighting here, when they are playing the game.” — West Virginia
“Thank you for your concern for those of us on the other side of the wall.” — Ohio
“Since I am in a 9×12 cell 24/7 with no TV and walkmen, I have very little to do but read . . . I sleep eighteen to twenty hours a day, give or take a few. And I have nine years to go. So, I want to learn a few things.” — Virginia
“I received your book, To Kill a Mockingbird, one week ago today. It was an excellent book, one I had never read before. I was unaware of all the awards it had won, which made the reading all the more enjoyable. I have passed the book along to another already, and look to continue so until I donate it to our library.” — Ohio
“I was quite surprised, and very pleased, to hear back from you so quickly . . . I have passed the first book I received on to two others so far, and plan to do so until the cover falls off! (The library here can fix it up when I donate it.) I am thrilled to hear that you are hoping to start-up a pen-pal program!! As a child growing up in the suburbs of Cleveland, our neighbors were of West Virginia descent. The best neighbors I have ever had!” — Ohio
“I was glad to learn that a program like yours has finally taken root in West Virginia. There is a newspaper article posted here in the library . . . You’re doing a good thing!” — West Virginia
“As a inmate doing time I pass my time by reading because it keeps me out of trouble and it opens my mind to new things. When I get into a good book I am transported away from this place to the places in the books. I read about 2 to 3 books a week.” — West Virginia
“I was advised to contact you regarding receipt of ‘Puzzle Books.’ . . . I have been confined for more than 35 years and this is the first such organization that I have known, or heard of, that provides any type of books to inmates. Most of my family members have passed away during my confinement.” — Virginia
“I would love 2 receive some of your free books. My family has little money so I cant afford books 2 read. I love reading because it takes your mind from being locked up, and it’s fundamental.” — Virginia
“First, thank you for all that you do to help and reach a lot of people with your kindness and good will. May God keep always blessing you . . . I am 41 years old and I am trying to get my GED since I never went to school. I want to better myself and be a more prepared person. I think that never is too late.”
“I would like to receive a book with poems in them. Romantic poems, Friendly poems, Spiritual poems. POEMS ONLY BOOK! At least 200 or 300 or more.” — Virginia
“I do not have any funds (as you notice with the institution providing the postage fee on the outer envelope.) And I was just wondering just what type of books you could offer for free, because more than anything at the moment—I very much need a Dictionary. I enjoy writing but not very good at spelling.” — Maryland
“I love to read but due to a lack of finances, I can not order books from a publishing house. I greatly admire James Herriot and I have a hard time finding his work.” — Maryland
“The Appalachian Prison Book Project has broaden[ed] my understanding. Providing books, the Appalachian prison book project has provided myself. Information is power and power is information.” — Virginia
We occasionally include voluntary book review forms in our packages. We ask if those who receive books would like to send us their thoughts on one or more books. Here are a few responses.
To Kill a Mockingbird and Fahrenheit 451
I asked for books written by ‘American Authors,’ and not only received just that, but two real gems … “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Fahrenheit 451.” To put it simply; Harper Lee’s Mockingbird Masterpiece was discussed very lively on our block, for we are 50/50 racially. I had read it as a child, and this book opened me to a blind-spot I did not realize was there. The second book, more or less, was a prediction of what the future would bring, and, lo and behold, we live in times where reading, especially the classics, has gone out of style. People on the whole have become intellectually lazy and read a lot of tripe, while the really good ones fall by the wayside. Thank you! — Virginia Beach, VA, March 19, 2016
Anne Frank, A Dairy of a Young Girl and The Cardinal of the Kremlin
I received “Anne Frank, a Dairy of a Young Girl” and “The Cardinal of the Kremlin” by Tom Clancy. I’ve been trying to obtain a copy of Anne Frank’s book for 10 years. Even on the street, I read it for school years ago, and the story was so compelling and vivid you could put yourself into her place. You must read this wonderful classic about a young Jewish girl’s life in hiding from the Nazis. Tom Clancy has a way of bringing real political and military problems to awareness through his books. You must red all his Jack Ryan and Jack Ryan Jr. series. I’m not too keen on this op-center too technical for me.
Wonderful books. I recommend them both. Please, if you have any books you’ve read as prisoners need them, I love to read. A lot of offenders buy a tu [tube] and reading etc. . . not me. I’d rather sit down and read a book. There is unplaceable knowledge and wisdom in books and writings that is not matched on TV or PC, or tablets or radios. Read a book and it will stick by your side like glue. — Pound, VA, March 7, 2016
The Nectar of Devotion
I just wanted to thank you for sending “The Nectar of Devotion.” I really appreciate that so much! God bless. — Chatham, VA, March 5, 2016
It’s something new, but also something that is hard for me to understand since basic math (+)(-)(x)(/) is what I’m arite with anuthing above that is mind frustrating. But good insight and I want to learn it. Thank you, I’m trying to learn so it is insightful and helpful as I learn more in the mathematics area of subjects. — Tennessee, March 7, 2016
I’ve read a bunch of books y’all have sent me and I learn something new every time. I’ve learned a lot about American literature, and U.S. history. I’m most thankful for the study bible you sent me. I use it all the time for myself and also to help others. We are so grateful for the work y’all do supply books for all of us in the correctional system. Thank you very much to all the volunteers that make this happen!!! — Virginia Beach, VA, February 16, 2016
We receive books from Appl. Books all the time and trade among each other. Receive[ing] any books is an enjoyment for prisoner, especially those in segregation reading takes you away from this place, someone from APBP sent me Magic the Gathering Cards which I use all the time. Many of the guys here are into many subjects of sci-fi, fantasy, fiction and D&D. Role dungeon and dragon club group. The books you send are a god send. Thank you. — Marion, OH, January 14, 2016
I typically read non-fiction (anything educational/informational) books, and other materials. Resources are limited here, in prison, and the reading selection is of three categories, religious, fiction or various kinds of self-help.
The books that I request and receive are much appreciated. The books also have an external life here. There is a ‘community book shelf’ in the block, so one book often gets read by several people.
I usually place a several ‘science’ request as a blanket request, it is a lottery of interesting topics. This broadens my general knowledge. I am also currently learning another language, (Spanish), and computer coding (java). The books that you send to us help with the learning process—Thank you. — Marion, OH, January 12, 2015
Wee Sing Bible Songs
Thank you for honoring my request. One of the books that I received titled, “Wee Sing Bible Songs” although this is somewhat kiddish I kept it because of some of the songs that I use to sing as a young adult in Sunday school.
“Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight, Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Now I have the music to the lyrics of this songs. Which I can play. If ever I get the opportunity to play at someone’s church I will change the wording to the following: “Jesus loves everybody, everybody in the world” and keep the rest the same except the children part, because us adults needs to be reminded of “the love of god” towards all peoples.
The book listening to music after I look through it more closely I will then donate it to our library. I see it more of a history musical book, but some of the notes looks interesting. It may give me some ideas as I’m limited to space and books. I am grateful for the supporters of this book project in considering us inmates. Thank you in advance. — Lima, OH, July 20, 2015
The book I read was “The Shack.” It is a marvelously inspired novel. That clearly depicts a deep relationship that the author has with god; moreover, you can clearly see that Young also has a true understanding of the Divine Trinity. It’s a moving, enlightening, and relational novel. I have actually read this three times. Whereas, each time, the Holy Spirit reveals a new part of himself to me. How awesome is the love of the Heavenly Father through a natural (physical) father! God Bless! — Henning, TN, December 22, 2015
I really liked the bible you sent me in the back of it explained how the bible was put together and the canon of the scriptures are a lot more than I learned. Thank you! — Big Stone Gap, VA, November 30, 2015
I really enjoyed my book of choice you guys hit it right on the mark as if I selected the book myself however i’m in prison and wanted to know can I participate in commenting on your books I’d like to exuberantly. Thank-you. P.S. the book was great I never knew Germany had so many places of interest. — Chillicothe, OH, March 2, 2016
The book you sent me is a gold mine of information I will probably consult for years to come. I loved it, and am still learning things from it. It’s all about carpentry. Thanks keep up the good work guy! — Tiptonville, TN, December 6, 2015
Norton Field Guide to Writing
First and foremost I hope this correspondence finds you in good health & spirits. . .
I greatly appreciate the books that you sent and all of the help that you have provided. I use the Norton Field Guide to Writing on a daily basis as I am trying to enhance my every-day writing skills. I am also learning to write poetry and articles for magazines and this book is helping tremendously with that. I would love to receive more books that could help to enhance my writing skills. — Waverly, VA, March 13, 2016
The dictionary you sent is a big blessing to me and will continue to be for years to come. I’m truly thankful for your service. God bless you. — Virginia
The Pentagon Papers
The above book is the latest book that I received from The Appalachian Prison Book Project. This book was/is about a great deal of what took place in a ‘behind the scenes’ scenario involving the ‘politics’ of the Vietnam ‘War’ and the military strategies that were utilized during said ‘War.’ It is literally an ‘exposé’ of the intentional ‘mishandling’ of a politically motivated military action that became extremely unpopular with the American Public.
I found the book very informative and ‘revealing’ about how politics can have the greatest of influences over military actions and foreign policy. I also found out some things that I was totally unaware of in regards to the Vietnam ‘War.’
I am old enough to recall many things about the Vietnam ‘War’ and the general ‘atmosphere’ that was present in America as it took place. I was a part of the Anti-War and Peace Movement during the late 1960s and early 1970s and participated in a number of Anti-War ‘rallies’ and Protests that took place on college campuses here in Ohio during that time. We were very aware of a number of the ‘controversies’ associated with the Vietnam ‘War’ and America’s involvement with it and we saw firsthand America’s growing dis-satisfaction with the Vietnam ‘War’ and the military’s failure, as well as politician’s failure, to bring about a speedy re-solution to the ‘conflict.’
I learned a great deal about the Vietnam ‘War’ from this book that I did not know until I read this book. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in the Vietnam ‘War’ era and the politics of it. — Ohio
The Last Juror
I liked the book I received from prison book project, it was a really good read from start to finish. I’ve read a lot of books and this one rates on my all time top ten list. — Virginia
I’m 40 years old and up until a few years ago, I hardly read anything. But now because of programs like APBP, I have learned a lot of history. I’ve learned a lot about the different cultures of a lot of foreign countries and also a lot of religions’ beliefs. I grew up on a pig and chicken farm and I didn’t know much about anything unless I saw it on television on local channels. I only got 2 channels. The books I have received have taught me a lot. I appreciate you guys a lot. — Tennessee