Books-to-Prison Pipeline: Critical Support and Advocacy for Incarcerated Women


Alex Andrews, John Meekins, BBA, Certified Correctional Officer, & Vicki White, AB | September 20 | 1:30-2:30 PM

Topic: Law Enforcement, Programming | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate

According to the Prison Policy Initiative (2017), more than 200,000 women are behind bars in the U.S. Moreover, the number of women in state prisons nationwide has been growing more than twice as fast as that of men since 1978. Attendees will learn about two programs providing direct support of and advocacy for incarcerated women and how they complement each other in their different approaches. Chicago Books to Women in Prison (CBWP) distributes free books to women in state and Federal prisons nationwide, as well as in Chicago’s Cook County Jail. They provide a critical intervention by offering the self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides to people with little or no access to books. The organization has integrated human trafficking education in its work. They stock recommended books on human trafficking, feature the books on their order form, and distribute helpful bookmarks. CBWP uses the trust it has earned from the women it serves to help fight human trafficking. Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) Behind Bars provides extensive support to incarcerated men, women and trans folks: newsletters, books, pen pals, scholarships and reentry support. The organization advocates for sex workers, who rarely receive the comprehensive support that would enable them to leave the industry—if they choose. SWOP Behind Bars works to remove the stigma around sex work and thereby protect the human rights and dignity of women in it. By decriminalizing both the buying and selling of sex, efforts can better focus on those who truly need assistance. 

Presentation Objectives:

·  Explain how books-to-prisoners programs fill a critical need for incarcerated people.

·  Describe the role of books-to-prisoners programs in educating incarcerated people about human trafficking.

·  Discuss the importance of supporting and advocating for sex workers, including those who are incarcerated and in reentry.

About the Presenters