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caption: FILE: Collection of books
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FILE: Collection of books

Washington prisons ban donated books from nonprofits

Prison facilities in Washington will no longer be allowed to accept used reading materials donated by nonprofits to prisoners.

This came as surprise to organizations like Seattle-based Books to Prisoners, which said they were never notified of the change.

The problem, according to the state’s policy memo, is that mail room staff don’t have time to properly inspect all the books for contraband.

According to the Department of Corrections the only books allowed will be books from the state library and new books from approved vendors for students.

Michelle Dillon with Books to Prisoners said prison libraries aren’t always easily accessible, so allowing people to request books and keep them is important.

“Prisoners are monitored and controlled 24 hours a day and unfortunately the libraries aren’t always open at the times when prisoners need, so we try to step in to fill that gap by keeping books as prisoner property rather than prison property," Dillon said.

Dillon hopes someone from the state will get in touch to help work out a solution. Beyond that, Dillon said she hopes state leaders will see the benefit of the program and step in.

“We believe that books are tools for literacy, for self-empowerment and for connection both to a person’s culture and to the broader world outside prison walls," Dillon said.

One of the most requested books is the dictionary.

In a statement the DOC said if people still want to donate books they can take them directly to the prison or to the Washington State Library headquarters’ location.