6 Books That Make Great Gifts for Prisoners

Updated on December 3, 2019

Buying Books for Loved Ones in Prison

Books, letters, and money are the only items that you are able to send loved ones while they are in prison. We would all love to send our loved one gifts to cheer them up. Books are the only option; however, it's a good option. A good book can change someone's life! A good book can cheer up someone who is depressed. A good book can help pass the time away.

Books have long been known to help everyone find hope and encouragement. There are few groups of people who need hope and encouragement more than prisoners. Prisoners are separated from their loved ones and their children and often are wracked with guilt over their past mistakes. Books can provide for your loved one(s) in prison inspiration, hope, and motivation to work to achieve freedom and change. Books can be very powerful tools in helping one's soul. The decision to acquire books for someone in prison is an excellent one.

Prisons only allow books to be shipped directly from mass book retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I personally prefer Amazon; they ship faster and their books are also cheaper. Plus you can get free shipping when you buy $25 worth of books. Amazon also has an ongoing deal of buy 3 books, get one free! You must buy the books directly from Amazon, not from a seller on Amazon, for the prison or jail to accept them.

Book Recommendations for Prisoners

Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit of Hope, Healing and Forgiveness

The first book I would recommend for a loved one in prison is Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul. The story behind this particular book is that it was originally available through free distribution to prisoners, prison libraries, and prison ministries. Over 100,000 copies were made available through charitable donations from the sales of Chicken Soup for the Christian Family Soul and monetary gifts from thousands of individuals.

This book was so successful that co-authors were bombarded with requests for a copy of the book. Due to the high demand, it was decided to release the book for the general public.

Serving Productive Time: Stories, Poems and Tips to Inspire Positive Change from Inmates, Prison Staff and Volunteers

This book is by Tom & Laura Lagana. If you have a loved one in jail, then you realize incarceration affects everyone and that only through positive change can we begin to heal and grow. This book is written with that perspective in mind.

Beyond Bars: Rejoining Society After Prison

If your loved one is soon to be released from prison, a book for them is Beyond Bars: Rejoining Society After Prison by Jeffrey Ian Ross. This book is the most comprehensive and practical guide on the market to help ex-convicts and their families and loved ones have a successful transition back into society. With the United States having the largest criminal justice system in the world, this book is essential for all former prisoners in aiding their re-entry into society.

Once Life Matters: A New Beginning by Marty Angelo

If your loved one is inspired by celebrities and music and rock-and-roll idols, an excellent choice is Once Life Matters: A New Beginning by Marty Angelo, a former music business entrepreneur. This book reveals how Marty Angelo's life was transformed from rock and disco music, drugs, substance abuse, and prison to a God's saving grace and mercy. Much like Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul, this book was also originally distributed to prisoners, rehabilitation clients and troubled celebrities, free of charge. Over 60,000 copies have been distributed thus far. If you purchase this book directly from Amazon, all funds go towards printing more copies and donating them to prisons and rehab clinics.

Best Jobs for Ex-Offenders: 101 Opportunities to Jump-Start Your New Life

Another good book for prisoners who are preparing for their release is Best Jobs for Ex-Offenders: 101 Opportunities to Jump-Start your New Life by Ron Krannich. Ex-offenders face many difficulties in finding and keeping jobs once they are released from prison. This is the first book which outlines good jobs for prisoners and others with red-flag backgrounds. It also provides a list of jobs which are not available to ex-offenders.

By the same author, The Ex-Offenders Job Interview Guide: How to Turn Your Red Flags Into Green Lights is a book to help ex-offenders face the many employability issues once they are released. This book is a must for newly released or soon-to-be-released ex-convicts on how to deal with the challenges of today's job market.

Life in Prison

Last but not least, an award-winning book that addresses gang warfare in the lives of inner-city adolescents is Life in Prison. This book is more for children of prisoners, helping to ensure they do not follow in their incarcerated parent's life. Stanley Williams is the primary author who is currently on death row. In his two decades of incarceration, Williams has become a respected author and activist, earning him the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize nomination. His book has received praise from educators, government leaders, and families of inmates. William's words are very frank and they challenge the minds of adolescent readers. His words work to educate those young readers to make intelligent decisions, and above all, to not follow in his footsteps.

Contact the Prison's Library

If you live on a tight budget, an alternative to purchasing books for an individual prisoner is to make a recommendation to the prison library to acquire the book(s) for all the inmates. This will enable your incarcerated loved one to have access to the book for free. Reading materials and information resources are provided in almost all state and federal correctional facilities. The Federal Bureau of Prisons through the U.S. Department of Justice controls all prison libraries in federal penitentiaries. The first prison library was established in 1802 with the purpose of increasing religious devotion and modifying behavior. Since then, prison libraries have been very common. For more information about library standards for adult correctional institutions, visit the American Library (ALA) website for the ASCLA division on prison libraries.


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