free books

free minds

books in prison

Many people will remember a situation several years ago when there was a virtual ban on sending books into prisons. This was challenged and eventually overturned. Nevertheless, as pub​licised in the summer of 2019 by The Howard League, the situation is still far from ideal. Understaffing may mean that people do not get to the prison library often or for sufficient time and some prison libraries seem to be closed more often than they are open.

In our experience, we often find that where we have been sending books into a prison with no problems for a year or more, without warning our packages will be returned and we have to start all over again finding out what the new rules are and how we can manage to get books to those who need them.

It is very clear that books provide a welcome (and legal) escape for people in prison. It gives them a chance to learn new things, find new interests, pass the time in a creative way and may go a long way to relieve mental health issues and reduce self-harm.

During lockdown we had to suspend sending individual requests and instead we sent shipments of around 100 books to each prison that wanted them, to be distributed around the wings.

If there are still restrictions for people using the library, prisons are invited to contact us here or on Twitter, @borderlinebooks pointing out any special wishes and giving the name of a staff member who will receive the parcels.


We invite anyone serving a prison sentence to write to us to request books to support their studies or for leisure purposes. We don't have any lists as our books are all donated and our stock is so large. By the time any lists were made they would already be out of date. You'll need to have at least 2 months left to serve since we sometimes have a backlog and also even when the books are received at a prison, they often take a while to be cleared by security.

Please note that we can't send books to family members to be brought in. We will send direct to the person in prison.

Where we can't find the exact book that is requested, we will usually send the next closest book that we have in stock. Let us know if you don't want any substitutes.

A gentle note: our free books are intended for the personal use of the people in the prison rather than for the libraries. Where the libraries are poorly stocked, we welcome visits to help you out, but would appreciate a financial donation.

I’d just like to thank you for your fantastic service and say how it warms my heart, in these days of ‘profit before people’, to know that there are organisations such as your own trying to spread

enlightenment and enjoyment among less fortunate people.

The books are fantastic and have made a big difference to my days.

So keep on ‘freeing minds’!