While Virginia shut down a program that provided books to inmates, a similar one based in Pennsylvania is thriving, says the Philadelphia Inquirer. Books Through Bars sends requested books to inmates and donates material to underfunded prison libraries. Tim Dunn helped organize the prison books program since it began as an offshoot of a specialty-book-publishing firm getting 15 requests a month. Books Through Bars now receives about 1,500 requests a month.
The program has developed a three-month backlog of requests, and has had to limit what was a national program to prisons in the Mid-Atlantic region. Despite the recent budget constraints, Dunn said, the organization ships about 500 packages every month, each containing three to five books. Most books are donated by individuals, and the organization is run by unpaid volunteers. Most prisons nationwide do not accept hardcover books for fear they could be used as bludgeons. Among the most requested books are dictionaries, GED guidebooks, and books on African American and Hispanic studies.