When I went to drop off books at the Prison Book Program in Quincy last week, I walked into a whirlwind of activity generated by a big, diverse and inspiring community of people committed to getting reading materials into prisoners’ hands. Some of the forty-some volunteers that evening, who were young, old, and everything in between, were catching up with each other at round tables where they were packaging books to send out to prisons; others were absorbed in processing and filing letters and requests from prisoners all around the country; more were stocking and organizing the shelves of their small bookstore-like supply room, sorting donations, or dashing around pulling books for packages.

PBP has been increasing prisoner access to resources for education and personal development by sending out books to incarcerated individuals since 1972. They’ve moved locations a number of time over the years but since 2004 have been housed in the basement of the United First Parish Church in Quincy, Mass. I hate to give away surprises but as an inducement for you to go check it out, this Unitarian Universalist church is worth a visit itself. It was opened in 1639 as “Ye Church of Braintry” and holds the remains of two former presidents, John Adams and John Quincy, and their spouses, Abigail and Louisa Catherine. A part of your tour of PBP can include a detour round the corner to the crypt that holds the four tombs:

PBP receives around 200 letters from prisoners per week, ships to over 800 facilities, serves around 7000 individuals a year. In order to do this work, they rely entirely on volunteer labor and donations, which almost all go to postage costs. Every hour and every dollar makes a big difference. Please consider sharing some of yours! I can’t think of many ways they could be better placed.

Quincy isn’t far from Boston, and the Program has regular volunteer hours every Tuesday and Thursday evenings and some special Saturday hours over the next few months too. You can get more info about all of this from their website. Literature about the program and one of their partners, Better World Books, is also available in the PLAP office, so please look for it.