Books for prisons

For prisoners the world over, books really can change lives. Books provide vital opportunities for education, skills and qualifications to equip people for life after release, as well as much-needed leisure reading.

A high proportion of the African prison population is uneducated, meaning they lack skills for life after their release. Many prisoners in African prisons can wait on remand for years, with no access to legal representation. The children of female prisoners often live with their mothers in prison until they are of school age.

Improving conditions for prisoners through books

In Kenya and Uganda, UK based NGO the African Prisons Project (APP) is working to change this situation by providing access to justice and campaigning for better conditions for prisoners.

Since 2009, Book Aid International has worked in partnership with APP by donating brand new books to the 13 prison libraries they have set up in Uganda and Kenya. To date we have sent a total of 11,235 books to these prisons, ranging from picture books for children (of both prisoners and prison staff) to vocational and educational textbooks, as well as novels and biographies. Crucially we provide books on law to help prisoners who are on remand to develop their own case and gain access to justice. APP reports that the legal books we send have helped many prisoners to fight their own legal battles, giving people access to justice that may otherwise be denied them.

Prison staff are also catered for as the library is often their only access to books, too. We provide them with books on counselling, social work, adult education and law.

In other countries, our book distribution partners also ensure that prison libraries are amongst those provided for. In 2014, Ethiopia Knowledge and Technology Transfer Society (an NGO) donated books from Book Aid International to seven prisons. In 2015, 10 prison libraries in Malawi received our books via the Malawi National Library Service.

“Books related to skills like catering, tailoring and others can help to change one’s life when these skills are learnt.”

– Prisoner, Gulu Prison

Our support for prison libraries in numbers


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