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PEN America Prison & Justice Writing Program
Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative, rehabilitative and transformative possibilities of writing. We provide hundreds of imprisoned writers across the country with free writing resources, skilled mentors, and audiences for their work.
Prison Journalism Project
An independent, non-partisan, national initiative that trains incarcerated writers to be journalists and publishes their stories.
Chicago Books to Women in Prison
Chicago Books to Women in Prison is an all-volunteer group that distributes paperback books free of charge to incarcerated people nationwide, focusing on all women and trans/non-binary people. We are dedicated to offering the opportunity for self-empowerment, education and entertainment that reading provides.
Freedom Reads uses literature as a powerful antidote to the hopelessness incarceration breeds. Inspired by Frederick Douglass’s recognition that freedom begins with a book, Freedom Reads supports the efforts of people in prison to transform their lives through increased access to books, writers and performing artists.
Liberation Library provides books to youth in prison to encourage imagination, self-determination and connection to outside worlds of their choosing. We believe access to books is a right, not a privilege. We believe books and relationships empower young people to change the criminal legal system.
UC Books to Prisoners
UC Books to Prisoners is an Urbana Illinois based project providing books to incarcerated individuals in Illinois at no cost by mail as well as through two county jail libraries which we operate.
Health & Wellness
Doctors for Defunding the Police
As a group of concerned physicians working in Toronto and beyond, we have come together to stand in solidarity with calls from Black and Indigenous communities to address systemic anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism, defunding the police, and reallocating funds to support response systems backed by public health research.
Illinois Birth Justice
Dedicated to supporting incarcerated pregnant women and new mothers before, during, and after birth to build positive futures for themselves and their families.
Prison Health News
The Prison Health News newsletter, published four times a year for people in prison, strives to lift up the voices, experience and expertise of currently and formerly incarcerated people. PHN are the only resource that responds to requests for health information from people in prisons and jails everywhere in the United States.
Chicago Community Jail Support
Chicago Community Jail Support has been stepping up and standing outside the jail to provide critical resources and transportation to the folks released from Cook County Jail, who oftentimes face dire circumstances in a sparsely populated area and no support.
Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook
This Handbook explains how a person in prison or detention can start a lawsuit in federal court to fight against mistreatment and bad conditions. As a result of the fact that most prisoners are in state prisons, we focus on those.
Legal Resources for People in Prison in Illinois
Maintained by the Prison Policy Initiative, this is a list of legal resources for incarcerated people and their familties/communities in Illinois.
National Lawyer's Guild Chicago
An association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system. We seek to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers of America in an organization that shall function as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
Prison Legal News
Prison Legal News, a project of the Human Rights Defense Center, is an independent 72-page monthly magazine that provides cutting edge review and analysis of prisoners' rights, court rulings and news concerning criminal justice-related issues.
Uptown People's Law Center
For over 40 years, Uptown People's Law Center has been dedicated to supporting the struggle of poor and working people. UPLC advocates for prisoners, tenants, and disabled people denied public benefits.
Black and Pink
Black & Pink National is a prison abolitionist organization dedicated to abolishing the criminal punishment system and liberating LGBTQIA2S+ people and people living with HIV/AIDS who are affected by that system through advocacy, support, and organizing.
Lifelines to Solitary
As part of Solitary Watch’s work, we have reached out to people in solitary with letters, cards, and a special print newsletter, reminding them that they have not been forgotten by the world outside their cells.
Beyond the Record: A Justice-Oriented Approach to Background Checks
The guide is designed to help employers, educators, education and employment program operators, licensing bodies, and housing providers better understand the individual, institutional, and systemic barriers erected by background checks.
Education Justice Project Reentry Video Series
A series of videos by the Education Justice Project featuring formerly incarcerated people sharing advice, resources, and their experiences of reentry.
Getting the Record Straight: A Guide to Navigating Background Checks
This guide is designed to help people with conviction records navigate the individual, institutional, and systemic barriers erected by background checks. It is common for people to feel nervous or stigmatized when going through a background check.
Illinois Reentry Services
Created by the Education Justice Project, this is website for people returning home from prison, and includes resources related to housing, food, employment, health, and legal aid, as well as several reentry guides.
Mapping Your Future: A Guide to Successful Reentry in Illinois
Our Illinois reentry guide includes more than 200 pages of information on preparing for reentry while incarcerated, steps to take following release, and directories of resources across the state.
For more information about prisons and jails in Chicago and Illinois, including information about policies, visits, commissary funds, and more, please see these official state, county, and federal websites:
English & Digital Humanities Librarian