Heidi Heise, who has been a part of the collective since 2003, says that every Sunday volunteers from the group spend three hours reading letters from women and trans individuals who are in prison, then assemble a package of books to send to them. The books are taken from WPBP's library, which are all donated.
started, the two groups divide up the country so that one groups sends to half the states and the other group sends to the other half.
If there's time, volunteers can write a note back to the recipients of the books, but Heise says that because of the sheer volume, that's not always possible. They do have a pen-pal project specifically for trans prisoners, however, called the Midwest Trans Prisoner Penpal Project.
Heise started volunteering for WPBP while she was in college at Hamline University, based on a suggestion of one of her professors. "I liked how tangible it was," she says. "There was a physical thing that we were doing."
People who are incarcerated often feel completely isolated, like "the rest of society has forgotten about them," she says. "We like to make sure they know that's not necessarily the case."
WPBP holds two book sales a year, one in February at their annual pancake breakfast and one during the Powderhorn Art Fair. Books on sale will run the gamut, culled from the donated books in the project's collection. "We get so many books donated that we don't have space to keep them all," Heise says. The sale will include hardcover books, which most prisons won't allow to be sent to prisoners, as well as multiple copies of books that they have in stock.
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will be held across the street on the southeast corner of Powderhorn Park at 3445 15th Ave. S. this Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.