Surprising Experience for Books Inside

About mid-June we got a call about a "books to inmates" project that had closed, wondering if we would take the books and put them into prisons as was originally intended.  We said "yes." The surprise was that we also inherited about 2,000 unopened letters from inmates all across the country.  We received the letters 7/18 and have been reading.  They come from 28 states and about 180 facilities.  The oldest seems to be around Jan 2016.

The closed book project was different from ours in that it sent books directly to a person rather than to the facility, and consequently many of the letters ask for specific books, however, many have other requests---e.g., information on particular concerns, a pen pal, just a dictionary, legal suggestions, bible study. We've made some contacts and are putting together a resource list which we'll include in our reply.

Most consistent, however, is the underlying message, in some cases simply stated, "Please respond. Whether you can or can not send books is not as important as getting a response." The question that arose was, "How do we do that?" 2,000 is a lot of letters, time, and a lot of postage.

In talking the puzzle through, a possibility arose and we're in the process of launching what will be called "owl messages." The message will be short and on a card about small card.  One side will explain them: a thought, a few words that you would like to say to someone who is in prison.  Anyone can write one, either directly onto one of our cards or by simply sending what they would like to say to the website or to the post office box.  Similar to a fortune cookie, the writer will be anonymous.  We will simply have a stack of cards and will put one into the envelope when we send out a response to a letter: a personal touch.

Perhaps the day may come when Books Inside receives a note from an inmate saying, "Days here can be bleak.  Please send an owl message."