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A Letter From APBP

Welcome to July!
As summer brings the heady smell of—well, just about everything—we at APBP continue to work our way through the little (and big) changes that help all of us to support our primary goal of putting books into people’s hands. As always we would like to extend our appreciation to all of our volunteers; our work depends on your time—so thank you!
Our 2014-15 year in review looks busy! APBP developed some good contacts with the Literacy Volunteers of Monongalia and Preston Counties. We were able to exchange reading materials that would better serve our separate populations, which made our stock that much more rich. We also continued working with the WVU Center for Service and Learning. The Center connects students to volunteer projects as part of credit for a class or simply for their own experience. This year one particular student was so inspired by APBP that she has asked her sorority to sponsor the project. Her work, along with the volunteers from her sorority, not only kept our out-going mail bins full, but also (amazingly) completely caught up to weekly requests! Meredith Ramella deserves special thanks for all of her hard work. The group plans to continue to support APBP and hopes to extend their work into other areas, such as fundraising and dictionary drives.
This past spring, Katy Ryan and Mark Brazaitis coordinated the Helen Coast Hayes Peace Lecture series. Students, faculty and community members were educated about the Inside/Out program by Lori Pompa and discussed the definition of restorative justice with Jacqueline Roebuck Sakho. Both women helped fuel much discussion about social approaches to prison, inmates and incarceration, particularly in terms of education. For those interested in participating in this ongoing discussion, the University of Pittsburgh will be hosting a national conference on higher education in prison this fall, Nov. 6-8 (link to call for papers or for more information:
In the spirit of education the board continues to support the book club at the women’s facility of the U.S. Penitentiary Hazelton in Bruceton Mills. The response has been overwhelming and positive. Thank you to all who have helped make this possible—from gathering the books to those who deliver the books to those who have offered to host writing workshops!
Finally, a thank you (and welcome) should go out to all of our returning and new board members. I, personally, am excited to see what the new year will bring!
Again, thank you for all that you do, please share this newsletter with interested friends and family, or direct them to our website:
Have a great summer!
Yvonne Hammond, on behalf of the Appalachian Prison Book Project

Meet Our Team

Volunteer Brionna Minney

My name is Brionna Minney, and I am a Senior Professional Writing and Editing student at West Virginia University. During the fall semester of my junior year I took a contemporary literature course with Katy Ryan, the founder of the Appalachian Prison Book Project.  

While the class was studying a play called The Exonerated, Professor Ryan mentioned the project and what they do for inmates. The goal of this project, and volunteers' desire to help educate inmates in the Appalachian region immediately sparked my interest. 

Though prior commitments inhibited me from becoming involved right away, I remained interested in the project and curious about education-based incarceration and the positive effects it had on the lives of incarcerated individuals in the Appalachian region. It was not until later that semester when I chose to do a research project on education-based incarceration that I fully understood the positive influence the project has on the lives of those incarcerated. As my junior year came to an end and it was time to choose a capstone project, I decided there was no better organization to dedicate my time to than the Appalachian Prison Book Project.

This project provides incarcerated individuals with educational resources they otherwise would not have access to as well as the opportunity to better themselves through literature. That is a goal that I wholeheartedly support and hope to help the Appalachian Prison Book Project to achieve.

Book Club News

Cari Carpenter, Elizabeth Juckett, and Katy Ryan continue to meet every other week with the Women’s Book Club at Hazelton Correctional Center in Bruceton Mills, W.Va. In recent months, the women read and discussed The New Jim CrowA Lesson Before Dying, There Are No Children Here, and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Over the summer, WVU English Professors Catherine Gouge and Mark Brazaitis visited the group and offered wonderful writing workshops. Below are thoughts from the facilitators. 
Elizabeth: “What a pleasure to be a member of the Hazelton women’s book club!  The women's investment in the reading and writing we do together is intense, highly insightful, a gift. When we sit in a discussion circle with each other twice a month, we create a new kind of space for sharing experiences and insights, a circle comprised of the worlds we have each lived in and the constrained world we briefly share, plus the limitless world of the mind and literary imagination. I feel privileged to have a place in this circle.”
Cari: “I wonder, now, how I could have missed it before: enormous rolls of metal fencing, with barbs so harsh that it is probably several models past what I know as barbed wire. 

This, perhaps, is what barbed wire looks like to an ant. It glints silver in an early evening light that, instead of softening it, only makes it more garish. Stretching as far as I can see, so massive that it wraps back upon itself as if it cannot be contained in a single row.

All this, to keep the women in. Women who are black and white and brown. Liberal and conservative. From here and everywhere else. Women who have money and who do not. 
Women who know the law or business or other languages or who have read nearly every book we mention. Women who have made mistakes and have been forgiven, or who have not. Mothers who are close to their children and mothers who are not. Women who represent a thousand possibilities.

Women who are all rendered, in an instant, equally unworthy by that monstrous, inscrutable, relentless fence.”

Thanks to WVU College of Business and Economics

The Corporate Social Responsibility class of the management department in the WVU College of Business and Economics awarded APBP $500 for its local nonprofit work. Thanks to board member Mark Brazaitis for writing this grant proposal!   

National Higher Education in Prison Conference

The Fifth Annual National Conference on Higher Education in Prisons will be held in Pittsburgh Nov 6-8. Go online for more details: This will be a fantastic gathering of scholars, teachers, activists, formerly and currently imprisoned people, young people and community organizers who will share information about educational programs inside jails and prisons across the country. Faculty from Duquesne University, University of Pittsburgh, Chatham University, and West Virginia University are on the planning committee. Many thanks to the WVU Eberly College and English Department for financial support for the conference. Send questions to Katy at

Most Needed

There are some books that are so often requested that we can't keep up. And we are always in need of funds for postage.
  • Dictionaries
  • Thesauruses
  • Almanacs
  • World language dictionaries and books, especially in Spanish, Arabic, Hebrew and Japanese
  • Books on Wicca
  • Books on Eastern mysticism
  • Books on Norse mythology
  • Books on art, drawing, anime
  • "How to" books on skills including, business, construction, computers, etc.

About APBP

The Appalachian Prison Book Project is a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that sends free books to women and men who are imprisoned in the Appalachian region. The project sends books to West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. Many prisons lack adequate libraries, and books can be a real life line to people doing time. Studies have repeatedly shown that recidivism rates go down when people in prison have access to educational programs. APBP considers its work part of this larger social goal.

Founded by Katy Ryan and members of her graduate prison literature course in the fall of 2004, APBP is a network of volunteers who respond to approximately 80 letters a week from imprisoned people requesting reading materials. 

Mail Bag 

"To whom it may concern: My name is Gary ... I am having someone help me write to you bcuz I can't read or write but only sign my name.

I would appreciate if you could send me books on how to read and write so when I get out I can inspire my children to work hard and learn harder.

Thank you. Sincerely,

- Gary, Kentucky State Reformatory 

Book Tally

Since 2006, APBP has mailed more than 16,380 books to people imprisoned in six states.

Job Fair

On May 1, WVU English Professors Catherine Gouge and Katy Ryan participated in a Job Fair at the women’s unit of the Hazelton Correctional Center. In small workshops, Catherine and Katy discussed cover letters and job search strategies. Over sixty women attended the lively and well-organized event at the prison.  

APBP in the News

APBP has appeared in these publications recently:

Volunteer with APBP

Want to volunteer with the Appalachian Prison Book Project? Send an e-mail to  
Issue 2, July 2015

This issue of Appalachian Prison Book Project News was produced by Katy Ryan, Diana Mazzella, Will Deaton and Brionna Minney.

Copyright © 2015 Appalachian Prison Book Project, All rights reserved.

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