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


Vicki White, AB & Alex Andrews | September 19 | 1:30-2:30 PM

Topic: Programming | Knowledge Level: Beginner, Intermediate | Location: TBD

According to the Prison Policy Initiative (2018), 219,000 women are behind bars in the U.S. The number of women locked up nationwide has been growing more than twice as fast as that of men since 1978. Moreover, incarcerated women tend to face greater disciplinary action than men and are offered inferior services, programming and facilities than men (Women’s Justice Institute, 2018). Attendees will learn about two programs directly supporting and advocating for incarcerated women. Chicago Books to Women in Prison (CBWP) distributes free books to women and trans/non-binary people in prisons nationwide. The grassroots organization provides a critical intervention by offering the self-empowerment, education and entertainment of reading to people with little or no access to books. The organization has integrated human trafficking education in its work, offering recommended books on human trafficking. 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, as well as a “toolkit” for donating books to county jails. They advocate 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