We Will Send Our Books to Prisons Free of Charge

We get letters from prisoners from time to time, and we always send them whatever books they request, free of charge. Prisons, which are profit-making organizations, continually exacerbate the problems of confinement. Years ago, they eliminated weight training and gym facilities; until that time, we sent many copies of our book Getting Stronger: Weight Training for Men and Women, by Bill Pearl to prisons around the country. These days, they won’t allow us to send books to their libraries, as is indicated in this heartfelt letter, but we can send books directly to prisoners.

If you have any connections with prisons, or know anyone serving time, we want to get the word out that any of our books — either fitness books or books on building — can be sent free of charge upon request.

In this case, it’s such a positive thing for inmates to learn a useful trade such as building tiny homes, that will both help them integrate back into society, and help provide shelter when it’s sorely needed.

Mr. Kahn,

My name is ——— and I am an inmate of the federal correctional institution in ———————. Within the Bureau of Prisons is a program called Vocational Training (VT) wherein the local prison partners with a local college or university in order to provide career training courses that are worth transferable college credit.

I work in the VT Program as a tutor and teaching assistant in the Residential Carpentry class. As the building tutor, it’s my job to take (mostly young) men from never having held a hammer to completely framing, subfloor or slab up to roof sheathing — a tiny home in three months. I love my job and find it intensely interesting.

I’ve long had an interest in sustainable building, community building, and smaller home designs. I was not prepared to find a small but dedicated (and growing) community of similarly-minded people here in prison. We have an architect from Tucson who is into natural materials, and a gentleman who wants to build a carbon neutral off-grid home. One guy wants to build a tiny cabin in Idaho, and another dreams of building homes on small trailer frames as a business. It’s exciting to have this support.

Which, Mr. Kahn, is why I am writing. I’m hoping you can connect me to resource books, papers, and other sources of information so that I can help this community succeed. The VT carpentry library is small and currently contains only a few volumes on tiny home design with almost nothing about natural or alternative methods of sustainability.

I’m working to change that, little by little. One of my goals here is to vastly increase the information available to the inmate population. Without internet or research computer access, that means the printed word. My vision is to have a robust selection of books on general sustainability, green building, water systems, solar designs — the works. I am asking you and Shelter Publications to donate books for the purpose of bolstering our sustainability knowledge set.

I making this appeal personally rather than as an official part of the VT program because the BOP has very strict rules about outside/private organizations donating to or participating in BOP programs. As an inmate, however, I can receive books and materials, then donate them to the library. I understand the purpose of these rules (I do not want to jog laps in the Coca-Cola Annex or spend time in the Inmate Leisure Library brought to you by Verizon,) but it does make certain things more difficult to accomplish.

I screwed up, broke the law and I’m paying the price. I could spend the next four years feeling sorry for myself, but that is not who I am. I intend to leave here a better person and to have made this place better for my efforts.

I ask that you help me serve this community, that these people can go on to serve their home communities.

Thank you for your time,

Respectfully, ———

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

2 Responses to We Will Send Our Books to Prisons Free of Charge

  1. This speaks highly of you, Lloyd. I wasn’t even aware that inmates were in need of of books – of course they are, just never occurred to me – so publishing this piece was a helpful public service announcement, of sorts. Thanks.

  2. Just a thought Lloyd, is it worth considering setting up something like a “just giving” type page. If people want to throw in a couple of quid/dollars it might help get more of your books sent directly to folks in prisons without you carrying the whole cost (financial times are not easy for many of us at the moment so a small amount from a few people might go a long way in real world terms).

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