Literature as a Rehabilitation Tool

Prisons are underfunded, overcrowded, misunderstood establishments meant to keep and rehabilitate judicial offenders in our society. We often don’t bat an eyelash at the thought of life there, or the process of rehabilitation. If we truly want prisoners to become the best versions of themselves – to emerge anew, ready for society, then we have to arm them with the mindset to do so. So, what’s one really important tool we can provide them with? Books.

Reading can not only be a great escape from where you are, but it can provide a moral compass and instill empathy and compassion in the reader. These reasons, among others, are why it’s so important to ensure inmates have access to literature. With more and more restrictions on the rise, as well as funding cuts, books are becoming a hot commodity among the prison system. What can we, as a society, do about it? Some programs are popping up around the nation to help provide access and a lifeline to those who are feeling alone and unheard.

The “Inside Books Project” organization, which was founded in 1998,  is among others trying to make a difference. The non-profit is based out of Austin, TX, and two nights a week they host an array of volunteers who open letters from Texas inmates requesting books, and a letter back. Volunteers organize, sort, and package the requested books and send them out.  Members have said that the inmates are so grateful for the books, and for the communication:  often times their ties have been severed with family and friends, so it may be their only point of outside contact. In recent years they have been known to respond to over 18,000 letters, and send out over 35,000 free books within a year. With so many ways to get involved, it’s easy to give back! You can volunteer time, donate money, help raise other funds, donate books, or simply bring awareness to the issue. To find out more about this organization, visit InsideBooksProject.Org, or search online to find something in your area.

If prisons are to serve the purpose of rehabilitation, we as a society need to ensure that all the necessary tools are in place for the rehabilitation. Doing our part to grant access to literature is paramount, and can truly be a key part to rehabilitation. Inside Books Project, and other organizations are paving the way to make literature more accessible, and we should follow in their steps. Reading is a right, not a privilege- for everyone. Let’s let literature open doors for second chances, and pave the way to rehabilitation.


For more on the Inside Books Project and all of the latest news on books, check out Cover to Cover every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 12pm EST.

-Morgan Messick

Originally published on


Morgan CircleMorgan Messick is a Pop-Culture fanatic, Podcast Host, Booktuber & total #BookBabe living in Austin, TX with her Husband and two dogs Scoop & Eleanor. She aspires to grow her #TBR pile, do all of the hiking, travel as often as possible and make a joke at every turn. She utilizes laughter and yoga for daily medicine, thinks that Harry Potter is magic for all ages, and truly believes Die Hard is a great Christmas movie (SO DEAL WITH IT.) Catch her musings here, and around the web — links in the “about” page!

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