Help with our prisoner book project!
In conjunction with the recent move of the Foundation’s office from Austin, Texas, to Chico, California, we seek volunteers to help with the Foundation’s Insiders’ Bookstore project, a resource that sends books and educational materials to incarcerated individuals, mostly from sexual or gender minorities. In turn, inmates agree to fill out detailed questionnaires that provide research data to criminologists, social scientists, and legal scholars working with the Foundation.
Volunteers can assist us in a variety of ways, whether cataloging books donated, processing prisoner correspondence, tabulating survey data, or preparing book orders for shipment.
If you have books or magazines …
… that you think would be of interest to inmates, please feel free to mail them to us (media rate) at 1421 Park Ave., Suite 100, Chico, CA 95928, or leave them in the drop box outside our office. Receipts will be provided upon request for those who wish to document their donation for tax purposes.
As is well-known, the United States has a larger percentage of its population incarcerated than any other advanced democracy. Prison sentences, particularly for sex-related offenses, are far longer than is normal in European states. A surprising number of offenders have been in prison since their late teens or early twenties, and sex offenders come from all social classes and educational backgrounds. Because of the stigma attached to their offenses, many have lost all contact with family and friends. A study conducted by the Percy Foundation shows that they are particularly vulnerable to harassment and physical abuse in prison from both authorities and other inmates.
It is a major goal of The William A. Percy Foundation to further the education and encourage the rehabilitation of inmates by supplying them with high-quality, college-level reading material of the sort that is seldom available in prison libraries. It is virtually unique in supplying GLBT publications to prisoners. It is our conviction that education in the liberal arts makes people more reflective and self-conscious individuals who will have better prospects of social integration upon release. The Foundation depends on donations from persons wishing to slim down their own personal libraries and on volunteer work from University students and faculty.
Read what some prisoners have had to say about how they have derived benefit from our program:
• “I think what the Percy Foundation does for inmates is amazing. For most of us mail call is the highlight of our day and being able to receive books free of cost is a blessing. Thanks again for all that you folks do.”
Michael, 27, Illinois
• “The Foundation has given me an alternative source of books to supplement the prison library, and when I’m done with a book I donate it to the prison library for other inmates to enjoy. The books I have received have helped me to understand the law better and improve my knowledge of law.”
Shane, 39, Florida
• “Books and reading are so nice. To be able to get outside these walls, no matter how briefly, is a godsend. Having books that are ‘old friends’ and others that allow me to see a glimpse of how I became the man I am is a unique opportunity.”
Mark, 46, California
• “The law books I have received have taught me other areas of law I did not know about, concerning historical events, new words, the constitutional interpretations and cases…. The impact on me is positive and has brought me a sense of confidence.”
Lawrence, 52, New York
• “We don’t make much money in here, so anything bought is a luxury. Books happen to be a luxury that is easy to share, but are usually pretty expensive. One hardcover costs about as much as the average month’s wage. The Percy Foundation’s book distribution program has given us access to new books and new fields of information. Research opportunities are limited here, so to be able to follow up reading Dostoevsky with Vernadsky’s History of Russia was really a blessing. The program has also opened the door to new authors such as Proust.”
Mark, 32, Texas
• “I depend on free book programs and infrequent donations from family for books that interest mee. Your program is the only one I have participated in so far that 1) provides a list of available books, and 2) has books available in two of my main areas of interest: history and gay studies.”
Frederick, 42, California
• “Lacking access to a regular library, it is a godsend to have someone send me books. Reading keeps my mind up and running.”
Walter, 68, Oklahoma
• “To date I’ve received 8 texts from your Foundation – thank you! From The Confessions of St. Augustine to Vanity Fair and Great English and American Essays, all of the texts not only broaden the mind and educate by offering something besides the cut & paste template of Patterson, Stuart Woods, Steele, and the like, but they offer us inmates a very welcome, and legal, escape from our current predicament. Moreover, your texts remind me of ‘the good days’ (when I was an academic – and can be one, yet again, in here). I cannot tell you how great it is to see other, less fortunate inmates pick up one of the texts I donated to our library from you and have them ask, ‘What does this word mean?’, ‘Is this author saying this or that?’, or ‘Do we have more from this author?’”
Gilbert, 30, Virginia
• “The books I have received are more than a blessing, especially for someone like me who does not have the financial aid to pursue correspondence courses . . . and has a library with limited educational books or insufficient material to allow me to pursue certain fields of study so as to further my self-education and personal reform.
“The child-psychology books have enabled me to better ‘know how’ to reach out to my sons. My sons, including my 21-year old brother, are learning that there exists a true reality outside the hood mentality.
“The smaller book I’ve received, called The Rise of Universities, has inspired me to do two things. One – lead my sons into having home-schooling which is associated with home-school support groups. This will enable them to better focus, get better attention, have a set-up curriculum that is not watered down, and better prepare them for college. Two – it has inspired me to write a book about the significance of ideology, culture, and tradition.”
Jeffrey, 30, Texas