If you want to send books to a friend, comrade, or pen pal currently incarcerated in a U.S. jail or prison, you can do so via the Massive Bookshop. We cover the cost of books for prisoners up to $50/mo. To get set up with a gift card for this purpose, submit our REQUEST FORM and choose the "Incarcerated?" option from the drop-down menu.
If this is your first time sending books to someone inside, you will want to review the mail policies of the state where they are incarcerated before placing an order. Our friend Julie took the time to compile the following state-by-state guide to help you get started (see below). You may also want to consider the identifying info that you provide at checkout. Though most orders for folks inside are shipped directly from a distributor that does not include a packing slip, any orders that we ship ourselves will include your billing name and address. You can always use the Massive Bookshop address (324 Wells St, Greenfield, MA 01301) as your billing address if you're not comfortable sharing your personal information.
[Note that state and federal guidelines are constantly changing as more and more for-profit companies seek to benefit from guaranteed government contracts and gouging the most vulnerable in our society. If any of the following links have expired or the information appears to be out of date, please email us at < firstname.lastname@example.org > so that we can update this page.]
While every state is a little different, there are some general principles that you will want to consider when sending books inside.
- Many states limit the number of books that incarcerated folks can receive at any one time. For this reason, we recommend ordering no more than 3 books at a time.
- Many states also restrict access to hardcover books, with the dubious rationale that a hardcover will be used as a weapon. Though we agree that books are weapons, we're thinking metaphorically, not literally. In any case, we recommend ordering paperback editions. A book's format is listed in the "Binding" field in the table on each book's product page.
- Facilities will also restrict access to books on the basis of content. Anything that could be construed as depicting or encouraging violence or sexual behavior is likely to be rejected.
FEDERAL PRISONS & COUNTY JAILS
Except when precluded by statute, the Bureau of Prisons permits an inmate to receive publications without prior approval and has established procedures to determine if an incoming publication is detrimental to the security, discipline, or good order of the institution or if it might facilitate criminal activity. At all Bureau institutions, an inmate may receive hardcover publications only from the publisher, from a book club, or from a bookstore. At medium security, high security, and administrative institutions, an inmate may receive softcover publications only from the publisher, from a book club, or from a bookstore. At minimum security and low security institutions, an inmate may receive softcover publications from any source. The sender's address must be clearly identified on the outside of the package.
Each county has its own policy regarding how many books a person is allowed to have in their cell. For example, in Georgia the limit is 4 books in Jefferson County and 0 books in Chilton County (just one bible or Koran). It is best to do an internet search for “sending books to COUNTY STATE jail” before placing an order.
Inmates may receive no more than two (2) books per month. The publications should be received directly from the publisher or a recognized commercial distributor. Inmates shall not be allowed to be members of, enter into contractual agreements with, or participate in book clubs.
Magazines or books should be in new condition and soft covered. Sending more than 3 books may result in refusal. Try to send books or magazines through USPS. Printed material should not contain any abusive language, hate speech, and nudity, or violent content. Inmates can't receive books or magazines while in solitary.
Inmate property rules allow for possession of 10 personal books. Publications shall come directly from a Department authorized publisher, distributor, or retailer and be consistent with copyright laws. Mail room staff shall verify that an incoming publication is from a Department authorized publisher, distributor, or retailer and not from a Third Party Vendor prior to opening the publication. Used publications must be in good condition, free of highlighting, underlining, notes, or other marks. Non-English publications may be delayed due to necessary translation.
All books must be mailed directly from the publisher, bookstore, educational institution, or recognized commercial or charitable outlet.
Books must be soft covered and sent from a departmentally approved book distributor, book store or publisher. Inmates may have only 10 books in their possession.
Barring content and property restrictions, offenders may receive books which are fastened, hinged, or otherwise bound which come from an approved source of supply. Publications meeting the following criteria will be held by the mailroom and forwarded to the facility reading committee for a final censorship decision: design or manufacture of weapons, depiction or description of violence, hatred, or abuse, sexually explicit content, advocating facility disruption or noncompliance with prison rules or regulations.
Books and magazines can only be sent to an offender if they are in new condition and are packaged and shipped by the book store, book club or publisher from which they are purchased. Please note all in coming printed material is subject to review.
Printed books may be sent directly from the publisher. Donated books from established book donation companies and donated library books must be pre-approved by the facility.
An inmate is not allowed to keep more than one copy of any volume, issue or edition of any book. Inmates, except those in disciplinary confinement, close management, and maximum management are limited to possession of 4 books. Books must be sent directly to an inmate from a publisher, mail order distributor, or bookstore through the United States Postal Service. No hard bound books.
Inmates may receive a limited number of individual books, periodicals, or newspapers produced by publishing concerns provided the publications are received directly from the publisher concerned or direct from an established retailer. Inmates may not receive books, periodicals, or newspapers the contents of which could clearly and reasonably be expected to present a threat to institutional security and discipline. Membership in book clubs or similar enterprises may be restricted on a case by case basis due to the inadequate inmate funds, space limitations, or safety requirements.
Books may not be sent to an inmate.
Publications must come with a receipt or invoice and be sent directly to the resident from the publication's publisher or an IDOC-approved vendor. New and used books are allowed but must be softcover and no larger than 11 inches long, 8 1/2 inches wide, and 3 inches thick. Residents may seek approval from their facility's administration to obtain hardback educational, legal, and religious books if softcover versions are not available.
Individuals in custody can receive publications from a vendor, friend or family. The institutional Publication Review Committee reviews all publications that are not on the approved list, and will disapprove materials that do not meet criteria. There is no limit through the mail. Envelopes that are padded with clear bubble wrap will be accepted. Envelopes padded with gray diamond dust and corrugated cardboard boxes mailed from family and friends will not be accepted and will be returned to the sender without being opened.
An offender may acquire or possess printed matter on any subject. However, printed matter shall be inspected and may be excluded if the matter is contraband or prohibited property. An offender must receive printed matter mailed directly from the publisher, the distributor, non-profit ministry, or an accredited institution of higher learning, unless the offender or the sender receives prior approval from the Warden to receive the printed matter from another source. Facilities MAY NOT censor specific publishers or vendors. All publishers or vendors are eligible to send offenders printed matter. All printed matter MUST adhere to Department policy and cannot impede the safety and security of the facility. Books may either be new or used but must be unaltered.
A third party may purchase books for an inmate so long as the items are sent directly from the following approved vendors: Books N Things and Edward R. Hamilton Books. The third party sender must be an individual with whom the incarcerated individual is allowed to correspond per IDOC policy OP-MTV-01, Incarcerated Individual Correspondence. A publication may be denied when the publication presents a danger to the security or order of an institution or is inconsistent with rehabilitation goals.
Books must be mailed directly from the publisher or vendor. Books may be either paperback or hardcover. Each inmate is allowed to have 12 books in their cell. The correctional facility will review the reading materials and will censor materials that are determined to be a security threat, are of a sexually explicit nature or contain nudity. The facility will not allow role playing games or books related to those games.
REPORT FROM A COMRADE: There are actually only specific distributors that people can receive books from [I think at this point books n things is actually the only one] and generally speaking they or their case workers need to be the ones who order them and there's some sort of limit on how many they can order at a given time. Usually if you try to mail a book to someone in KYDOC, no matter where you send it from, it will get rejected and usually destroyed.
It is not possible to send books to incarcerated people in Louisiana, only canteen packages (food & hygiene) through a third-party vendor.
Books may be received by prisoners only if they are sent from publishers or commercial distributors.
Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS) permits and encourages inmates to receive mail, reading materials, and publications consistent with the United States Constitution, Maryland State and Federal laws and regulations, and Maryland DPSCS policies and procedures. Books mailed to an inmate at the facility may not have: a hard cover; removed, torn, or reattached pages; or removed or reattached book covers.
All incoming non-privileged correspondence and packages may be required to successfully pass a fluoroscope examination for contraband materials, and shall be opened and inspected before delivery to the inmate. The Deputy Superintendent may reject a publication within a reasonable time of receipt to prevent interference with institutional goals of security, order, rehabilitation, or if the publication facilitates, encourages, and/or instructs in criminal activity. An inmate may not receive more than one copy of a particular issue of a publication.
Prisoners may only receive publications ordered by members of the public from the following Internet vendors, provided the publication is new and not used: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Hamilton Books, Prison Legal News, Schuler Books, Walmart
Offenders in adult facilities may receive published materials and subscribed newspapers or periodicals only from the publisher or authorized vendor. Publications that have been altered or show signs of tampering or handling by persons other than vendor, publisher, and mail handlers, are not allowed.
Publications must be pre-paid soft cover back books (order limit of 3) and must be sent from the publisher, distributor or vendor. Publications that depict homosexuality (same as recipient), sadomasochistic, penetration of body orifice, bestiality, and/or involving children will not be allowed.
Missouri Department of Corrections facilities will accept the following items via postal mail: publications sent directly from a publisher, distributor or other bona fide vendor.
A person on the inmate’s approved visiting list may order new publications provided such an item is sent directly by the publisher or any licensed retail outlet and includes an invoice or enclosed paperwork indicating the name of the sender. Anything received without this information will be returned to sender or disposed of. Publications (books, magazines, and material) are subject to screening and review. Books must be in new condition and no larger than 9” wide, by 12” tall, and 2” thick. New books that are not available in softcover may be allowed in hardcover provided the inmate is not in a locked housing unit.
Inmates may order and receive books from approved book vendors. A book vendor that wishes to be included on the approved agency list should contact the NDCS Legal Division for consideration of their request. Any book order received from an unapproved book vendor will be returned to the sender.
Ten personal books, including legal and religious books, are the maximum amount
authorized. Books received through the mail must follow the procedure. No mention of packages on website or in regulations re: mail and correspondence.
Throughout the calendar year books or magazine subscriptions can be sent directly from recognized mail order companies or publishers. The receipt must be included within the package or it will be returned to the sender. The number of items allowed in the individual's housing unit is based on which unit in which they reside. All books shall be from a bona fide publisher or bookstore, prepaid and postage paid, and delivered through the United States Postal Service.
The number of approved persons that an inmate can correspond with and the amount of correspondence that an inmate can receive is not limited.
Beginning February 1st 2022, personal mail will no longer be accepted at state-run prison facilities. Packages mailed to inmates will not be accepted, but will be returned to sender unopened.
Packages and articles will only be allowed to be received directly from vendors via U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS, etc. Packages will no longer be allowed to be brought to the facility during visits or mailed directly to the facility from family or friends. Books may be new or used, and may be delayed through the Package Room up to 6 days for close security inspection if received from other than publisher or approved distributor.
While letters are processed by TextBehind, a private company contracted with the state to scan and deliver digital copies, incarcerated individuals can still receive books shipped directly from a publisher, distributor or approved vendor. For information on sending packages to offenders, contact the offender's individual prison facility.
Facilities will accept publications sent in directly from a publisher, distributor, or authorized retailer.
Individuals on an incarcerated individual’s approved visitor list will be permitted to order printed materials to be delivered to the individual. The ordered printed material must be sent directly to the institution by the publisher or distributor, and the package must include a receipt indicating the order number and items(s) purchased. The printed materials may be new or used and are subject to security inspection and review.
Receipt of any publications not paid for in advance will be prohibited. All orders for publications will be made directly to the publisher of the material or to a verifiable vendor.
Books must be sent to the adult in custody directly from a publisher/distributor.
Family and friends may only purchase and send publications directly through an original source vendor, which includes publishers, bookstores and online distributors. All books and magazines must be sent through the DOC Security Processing Center. The DOC accepts both hard and soft cover books; however, the SPC may remove the cover of a hardcover book for search purposes.
All mail (letters, packages, etc.) is only accepted when arriving through the U.S. Postal Service. Inmates will be permitted uninterrupted correspondence and/or publications as long as the correspondence/publications pose no threat to the safety and security of the facility, public officials, or the general public, do not hinder rehabilitation of an inmate, are not being used to further illegal activities.
Inmates may receive single copies of publications from a publisher or publication supplier if paid for in advance by the inmate, family member, or friend. A legitimate invoice on business stationary/company letterhead must be enclosed with the publication(s). Inmates who are in intake status or restricted housing (RHU) may not receive any publications
Offenders may receive approved printed matter through the offender correspondence system, provided this is sent to the offender directly from a publisher, distributer or institution of higher learning providing the educational correspondence course (includes accredited and non-accredited correspondence courses). Books must be soft cover.
Printed materials may be received by inmates in an unlimited amount, provided they are mailed directly from the publisher(s) or recognized commercial distributor. Persons ordering printed materials for inmates should be careful to accurately identify the seller. Some materials offered on the website of recognized commercial distributors are listed for sale by third-party sellers, and when purchased will be mailed from the third-party seller who is not a recognized commercial distributor.
Books may be mailed directly to inmates only by the publisher, publication supplier, bookstore, or online bookseller, subject to review and rejection in accordance with the correspondence rules. Publications received by inmates may be in languages other than English. Inmates may receive reference books and other educational materials from volunteer organizations that operate the following types of programs: literacy and education, life skills, job skills, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, support groups, arts and crafts, and any other programs designed to aid inmates in the transition between confinement and society.
Books may only be purchased through the prison Commissary and are sent directly to the prison by the book vendor. Each book is inspected before being delivered to an inmate.
Family members and friends of an inmate may order publications for a specific inmate
provided that the publication is mailed directly from the publisher or commercial distributor, the order is prepaid, and the publication is not listed on the Department’s disapproved publication list. Books will only be soft cover unless they are educational texts.
Offenders may receive publications directly from a commercial vendor so long as they do not pose a threat to the security, discipline, and good order of the facility and they otherwise comply with requirements. Offenders must secure permission from the Facility Unit Head, or designee (usually mailroom or personal property) prior to ordering a book by submitting a Personal Property Request Add/Drop form. When an order is received for an offender, the order must be verified against the original Personal Property Request Add/Drop form.
Incarcerated individuals may receive new books in any language sent directly from the publisher(s) or vendor(s). Incarcerated individuals may receive used books in any language from approved non-profit organizations. Publications must be delivered to the facility by USPS, UPS, or FedEx. Publications in languages other than English must be reviewed by the headquarters correctional manager. Publications written in Braille, except those received by facility libraries, will be limited to incarcerated individuals with a documented vision disability.
Packages (food and hygiene) can only be ordered through Union Supply Direct. (No mention of books.)
State of Wisconsin has a multi-vendor contract for hobby and property purchases. PIOC family and friends may purchase items from by contacting the following vendors: Jack L Marcus, Union Supply Direct. All property items must be purchased from approved vendor catalogs and must be shipped directly from retail with a receipt.
Inmates may receive publications directly from the publisher only. Hardback books and publications are prohibited regardless of content. Publications must be paid in advance. Multiple copies of the same publication to the same inmate shall be prohibited. The warden may reject a publication only if it is determined detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the
correctional facility or if it might facilitate criminal activity.