The mission of
Books to Prisoners:

  • to provide books to inmates in Illinois by recycling donated books
  • to facilitate a quality volunteer experience
  • to offer a venue for inmates to tell their own stories
  • to educate ourselves and our community about prisons

March 2010 Newsletter

This winter has been an extremely busy and exciting time around Books To Prisoners. We recently surpassed 44,000 books shipped which is significant as there are approximately 44,000 inmates incarcerated by the Illinois Department of Corrections at any given moment. While symbolic, this number represents the tremendous growth of our program over the past six years and reflects the dedication of our volunteers who provide human interaction and connections to incarcerated people one letter at a time.

Our weekly volunteer sessions have been growing in recent months; some of our sessions frequently see more than twenty volunteers. As our organization and operations continue to grow, so does our need to fund our work. Our shipping bill jumped $2,000 from 2008 to 2009 and we anticipate another significant jump in 2010. A $3 donation will send a package to an incarcerrated person, $30 will send a package to 10, and $300 will send a package to 100 individuals. Please consider making a donation by paypal.

Volunteer Spotlight - Janet Wesse  
Janet has been a member of the CU community since 1970 and after being a supporter of our organization, began volunteering with BTP a year ago at the encouragement of friends who were active volunteers. Since Janet became a regular volunteer in the BTP workshop, her daughter Erinn has also began volunteering occassionally.

Janet may be one of the first volunteers to greet you as as you arrive at our workshop on Saturday afternoons and Tuesday evenings, as she spends most of her volunteer hours working in our anteroom packing orders.

Twenty years ago Janet realized the impact of providing books to prisoners while corresponding with inmates. Today at BTP you will often find her working at the packing table, a tasks she enjoys doing so other volunteers can spend their time selecting just the right books to respond to requests.

In addition to volunteering with BTP, Janet helps provide holistic, free health care to our community through her volunteer efforts with Champaign County Christian Health Center. Janet is uniquely qualified for this volunteer experience by her day job, working in the hematology lab at Carle Hospital, where she has spent the past six years of her 30 year career in the field.

Please join us in thanking Janet for her efforts the next time you see her around town or at the BTP workshop in the Independent Media Center.

Work Space Upgrades

Between December and February we invested $1,700 in necessary electrical upgrades to our work space. Approximately 65 hours and a considerable amount of materials (including several recycled and re-purposed fixtures) were employed to replace the tangle of extension cords and mismatched lighting fixtures in our room. Fresh conduit was run, new outlets were added as well as energy efficient light fixtures which more evenly distribute the light. As a result of this investment, our room is now much safer and has the capacity to support our current and future electrical needs.

A new system of organizing outgoing "bulk" packages was recently implemented in our shipping room. As more Illinois prisons recognize the value of the work we do and begin to see us as a partner (thanks to the efforts of our liason, Barbara Kessel) we continue to relize the financial benefits of sending multiple packages in a single box to select facilities.

A special thanks goes to Sarah Ross for taking the initiative to fix-up and re-purpose this shelving as well as designing the bulk package tracking system and peforming other upgrades to our anteroom including the addition of chalk board surfaces, convenient for leaving messages and posting announcements. Look for additional changes in this room as we free up more space and figure out how to better use this multi purpose room.

Thanks to the generousity of our volunteers and community, this winter we replaced all four of our old computers with considerably more powerful, newer machines which should meet our needs for several years to come. We are also in the process of replacing the old monitors with space saving, energy efficient LCD models.

The application of our new logo to the door of our workshop represents one of several phases involved in unifying our organization's image in our community. This custom vinly decal was prepared and donated by supporter Casey Smith, who plans to provide additional vinly decals for use in other places throughout the IMC.

Outreach Initiatives  
In January we printed several thousand copies of this glossy brochure, featuring photography donated by Nick Mann and design services donated by Ryan Griffis. This brochure will serve as a centerpiece of our publicity and outreach materials in coming years. If you know people who would like to learn more about BTP, please pick up some brochures to share.

Judith Pond, our AmeriCorps outreach coordinator is currently engaged in writing a service-learning curriculum to use with high school and college groups that volunteer with BTP. If you are involved with a group of young people that would like to set up a service-learning volunteer session (to be held outside of our public work hours), please contact Judith at