Prison Books Project: Pittsburgh's People of the Year 2022 in Literature | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Prison Book Project: Pittsburgh's People of the Year 2022 in Literature

click to enlarge A woman stamps a page inside a book in a library
CP Photo: Jared Wickerham
Paola Lienda volunteers to package books with the Prison Book Project

It has been a big year for the Pittsburgh Prison Book Project. Founded in 2000 under the name Book ‘Em, the Project has gone through many changes but the mission has remained the same: providing free access to literature and educational materials to people in prison.

After being based in the Thomas Merton Center’s unfurnished basement for many years, the Project moved to an above-ground space in Hazelwood this year.

“Our space is now a place people want to spend time in,” Project co-chair Jodi Lincoln tells Pittsburgh City Paper. “We were able to double the number of packages we sent, getting books and resources in the hands of 1,526 people.”

While the Project primarily sends books to facilities within Pennsylvania’s correctional system, there is one notable exception: local county jails. Lincoln explains that they “often don't have public policies, have very little oversight, and aren't transparent.”

Despite being located in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Jail is no different. Even books from approved sources were “mass rejected this past year.”

In 2023, the Project plans to advocate for increasing book access at the jail by “pushing for new policies and transparency.”

“We'd love to be able to send a book into ACJ by the end of 2023,” Lincoln says.

Pittsburgh Prison Book Project.