Wisconsin Books To Prisoners

Our Mission

Wisconsin Books to Prisoners (WBTP) is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization whose mission is to foster a love of reading behind bars, encourage the pursuit of knowledge and self-empowerment, and to help break the cycle of recidivism.

Who We Are

Active since 2006, WBTP is a project of A Room of One’s Own, an independent bookstore in Madison. The store offers a wide selection of current and classic fiction, nonfiction, and periodicals.

WBTP is also supported by Half Price Books, located on Madison’s east side, which offers a wide selection of new and used books that shoppers can choose to donate to WBTP.

In addition, Voyageur Book Shop, a used book store focused on providing the best selection of used books at a convenient location in Milwaukee, provides support to WBTP.

What We Do

Volunteers meet weekly to read letters from Wisconsin prisoners, select books from the WBTP library, prepare packages, and mail them.

Why We Do It

Incarcerated people face significant barriers to being able to access books and information. Prison libraries are often antiquated and poorly funded, and educational and vocational programs for prisoners are nearly non-existent. WBTP volunteers love to read and want to ensure the same freedom for those living behind bars. We believe that books are tools for learning and can open minds to new ideas and possibilities.

How You Can Help

Interested in volunteering? We are currently accepting applications from those who can commit to at least a year of service. Please tell us a little about yourself and your interest in this project when you email us at wisconsinbookstoprisoners@gmail.com.

We welcome book donations and, of course, welcome financial contributions.

We are grateful for all your support.

News & Events

Reading Behind Bars: How a Madison-Based Nonprofit is Breaking the Barrier Between Prisoners and Books

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by Hallie Claflin
Madison Commons

Wisconsin Books to Prisoners is a nonprofit seeking to remedy an issue in Wisconsin that extends nationwide: limited access to books in prison. The organization works to foster a love of reading among inmates, and many of the books they send prisoners help them gain skills and knowledge to use after their eventual release. Since the group’s founding in 2006, they have sent close to 70,000 books to prisoners across the state. 


Books as Decarceral

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by Kelly Brotzman

By helping non-incarcerated people to experience a human connection with people inside, volunteering can open a curtain in the mind.


Inside a ‘Nightmare’ Lockdown at a Wisconsin Prison

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by Mario Koran
The New York Times

Inmates who have been confined mostly to their cells for more than four months describe unsanitary conditions and a dearth of medical care. Experts say dire staffing shortages are likely to blame and are leading to lockdowns across the country.


Lost in Transit: Digitization of Mail Expands Surveillance Beyond Prisons

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by Phillip Vance Smith, II

As analog forms of surveillance and social control are renegotiated toward digital ones, incarcerated people are isolated and made especially vulnerable.


The Artists Taking on Mass Incarceration

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by Adam Bradley
The New York Times Style Magazine

More and more art is challenging long-held assumptions about the criminal justice system.


Major Award for A Room of One’s Own

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by Barry Adams
Wisconsin State Journal

Publisher’s Weekly has named Gretchen Treu and Wes Lukes, owners of A Room of One’s Own bookstore, to its Star Watch program that honors up-and-comers in the book business.


Wisconsin’s Prison, Jail Populations Plummet During Pandemic

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by Corrinne Hess
Wisconsin Public Radio

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the inmate population at Wisconsin’s local jails to decline by more than one-third in 2020, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum.


The Prison ‘Old-Timers’ Who Gave Me Life

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by Darnell Epps
The New York Times

Aging inmates, some serving life sentences, helped author Darnell Epps turn his life around. He believes they could do even more good on the outside.


The Newest Jim Crow

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by Michelle Alexander
The New York Times

Recent criminal justice reforms contain the seeds of a frightening system of “e-carceration.” This article is an addendum to Michelle Alexander’s 2010 eye-opening book The New Jim Crow.