As recently as March of 2011, Texas lawmakers questioned whether higher education programs in prison were worth investing in, while research by the Institute for Higher Education Policy shows that many states struggle to provide adequate post-secondary education options due to budget constraints.
When you consider that the Department of Education has data to prove that inmate education lowers risk of repeat arrests, it’s clear we need to fill the gap between the resources prisoners realistically have access to, and the assistance they need to ensure they have the best chance of reclaiming their lives back on the outside.
Enter the Inside Books Project, a volunteer-run non-profit that collects and distributes donations of books and reference materials to inmates across the state. The organization “works to promote reading, literacy and education among incarcerated individuals and to educate the general public on issues of incarceration.”
Citing evidence that in-prison education reduces recidivism, and noting that current resources are woefully thin, IBP notes that:
If prisons were meant for purposes of rehabilitation, that goal has long since been lost to dehumanization and punishment. IBP is, at times, the only connection prisoners have with the outside…. IBP is the only organization of its kind in the state of Texas. We attempt to serve needs in the education of Texas prisoners that would otherwise go unmet by the state prison system. Inmates share information and resources they receive through our efforts, thus creating informal communities of literacy and learning.
IBP holds regular volunteer nights every Thursday and Sunday from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. at Space 12. Drop-in volunteers are always welcome (duties typically include sorting donations, receiving requests and stuffing envelopes). They’re also holding an MLK Jr. Volunteer Day on January 16 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The IBP gets over 800 letters a month asking for all kinds of materials, from novels to test prep guides. Some of the most requested books include dictionaries, almanacs, books on Texas Criminal Law, GED or basic education materials, foreign language guides (particularly Spanish), how-to and trade education books, science and math textbooks and Native American, Latino and African-American history.
Because they serve so many inmates, IBP is always in need of donations, and they have several designated donation drop-off spots to make it easy:
- Space 12 (3121 East 12th St): Bring donations inside during volunteer night, or leave at the 24/7 drop box outside the front door.
- MonkeyWrench Books (110 North Loop): 24/7 drop box outside the store.
- Bouldin Creek Coffee House (1900 South 1st Street): 24/7 drop box near the bike rack in the front parking lot.
If you’re interested in shipping books to inmates outside of Texas, check Books to Inmates for more information.
Learn more about the Inside Books Project: