How do I send books or magazines to someone in jail?
April 22, 2009 11:24 AM   Subscribe

How do I send books or magazines to someone in jail?

A friend is going in for about a month and besides visiting, I'd like to be able to send him some books or magazines. However, the Detention Center rules state that "Requested books, publications, etc., must come from the publisher."

I've heard anecdotally from another friend in similar circumstances that shipping directly from Amazon isn't acceptable either.

So, has anyone had experience sending anything other than letters to someone in prison? Is there any way to get publishers to ship directly?
posted by electroboy to Law & Government (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It probably depends on the state, but I've sent books from Amazon to a friend incarcerated in Michigan and he's received them. They have to be new from Amazon, not used from a vendor.
posted by goatdog at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2009

This varies by the prison to a huge degree. I've worked with the Books to Prisoners project in the past and about all you can do is get ahold of the prison directly and be like "I want to send some stuff to my friends, what hoops do I have to jump through?" You can do stuff like send subscriptions, generally, but if they're only there for a month, they might not be able to get much in the time they're there but something like a newspaper subscription or weekly magazine might be decent and non-controversial. So I'd call and ask direct questions

- "can I send books ordered from Amazon?"
- "Can I get books sent from a Books to Prisoners program?" [if so, contact your local BtP]
- "Do you have suggestions for ways for me to get reading material for my friend? Can I donate books to the prison library?" (assuming they have one)

In short, mail restrictions are sort of one of the punitive things that happen to people in jail. It sucks. There are also security concerns and these are often the stated reason for these restrictions and there's rarely anything you can do. For such a short stint, I'd see about local news type publications where it would be easier to both get a short subscription and start/stop it within the time your friend will be there.
posted by jessamyn at 11:31 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I called the Hartford County Detention Center, and the operator said Amazon was fine, but they can only be paperback books.
posted by goatdog at 11:35 AM on April 22, 2009 [1 favorite]

I worked at Barnes and Noble, and there was a process for this, but all the work is on the book seller's end. The customer would buy the book, pay for shipping, and tell us the recipient's name and where they're incarcerated. We would then fill out some paperwork and mail the book from the store.
posted by lunalaguna at 11:57 AM on April 22, 2009

Some publishers do direct-to-consumer business. Penguin, Random House, and Macmillan all do, and their websites are set up for e-commerce. Doesn't look like HarperCollins or Hachette do. Remember that the big houses are all made up of smaller publishers, so browsing around the corporate sites may turn up some interesting titles.
posted by meghanagain at 1:04 PM on April 22, 2009

Response by poster: Update: Our friend got out early on work release, so it looks like it may be a moot point.
posted by electroboy at 1:22 PM on May 6, 2009

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