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BEST CAUSE Minneapolis 2002 - Women's Prison Book Project

Two seemingly unrelated phenomena: Americans buy millions of paperback books; Americans incarcerate millions of Americans. Only a fool keeps every book she purchases, and only a fool thinks prisons are adequately stocked with books. Ergo the Women's Prison Book Project, a tiny local volunteer organization that answers hundreds of requests for books each month from women in prisons across the nation. Nobody knows better than a convict how much a book can change your life. And since 1994 this nonprofit has probably collected and distributed more paperback life-changers (no hardcovers, please) than any bookmobile, mailing them to female residents in our ever-expanding social safety net of last resort. Focusing on the nation's 200,000 female inmates makes practical sense: Most women in prison are mothers, most are survivors of sexual or domestic abuse, and most don't have a high school diploma. Popular requests include books about women's health and abuse issues, GED materials, English and Spanish dictionaries, fiction and nonfiction by people of color, queer fiction and nonfiction, mysteries, arts-and-crafts manuals, and romance novels. Considering what it takes to drop off old paperbacks in a wooden box outside Arise! on Lyndale, there's no easier or more effective donation you can make.

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