a somewhat practical question....


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still early in the game, but it looks like Difficult Child will be in prison for at least a year. He asked me to send him books or magazines, which I am willing to do and the prison website says there is a way to do that as long as they are "appropriate."

so...anyone have any good, inspirational, not too dense suggestions? He only has a GED and won't be able to make his way through any dense philosophy...but inspirational biographies, fiction, narratives, or "how to live our life better" stuff would be great if anyone has any ideas.

Difficult Child's mom. Again. Always.


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At the risk of sounding like a jaded Correctional employee, tell him to go to the library as they have that there. Or is this county not state? Im assuming (since its the way of it in Missouri) that since it will be for more than a year that it will be a state facility. If you do decide to send him things, check the institutional policies first. Don't just go off of the web site because it doesn't take into account the different custody levels of the institutions. Find out where he will be and call them. For us, family members can get subscriptions to appropriate magazines or newspapers and can send appropriate books in but nothing packaged in bubble wrap. Someone got LSD in a few times by injecting it into the bubbles.


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No kidding! In the prison where I worked, they did not allow individual magazines to be sent in by family or friends, only subscriptions where they come directly from the publisher. And they had to be appropriate - no porn, no Playboy, no Hustler. Nothing that encourages violence, gang activity or drugs. Individual books could be mailed in but had to meet the same criteria. Most of the allowed magazines were in the library anyway so no need to buy them.

Tanya M

Living with an attitude of gratitude
Staff member
I wonder if National Geographic would be acceptable. It's a great magazine.


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When difficult child was in prison, I sent orders via Amazon, which was acceptable with the jail...and later the prison. At first, I selected books I thought would help him. I remember one title was Running with Scissors. My selections failed. difficult child was totally bummed. Why I thought sending titles about mental illness would help? Have no idea, but that was my thinking at the time.

difficult child started giving me suggestions, which I followed through with. He always thanked me profusely. difficult child worked in the library, but claimed their holdings were lame. When he was released, he donated to the library what we had sent.

Anyway, my advice is to ask your son for specific topics, authors, etc. and start with that. As a retired librarian, I am all about books. (Although, I bombed out on my choices for difficult child).



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Donna, its the same for us. Subscriptions and books from the vendor only. Sorry, didnt make that very clear.

difficult child worked in the library, but claimed their holdings were lame. When he was released, he donated to the library what we had sent.

I can vouch for the fact that even the best stocked prison library is sadly lacking. Offenders regularly donate their books to the library, especially since they can only have a limited number at a time and its just too expensive for them to mail books back out. You can donate books directly to the library as well. Again, check with the individual institution and they will give you the proper procedure for donating reading materials.

I cant vouch for other states but we purchase magazines for the library through the Inmate Canteen Fund, the fund maintained by the profits from the sale of tobacco products, food, legal and hygiene items to offenders. Its also used for a variety of other programs to benefit the offenders.


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They tried banning prisoners from receiving books in the UK recently and the matter went as far as the High Court where it was ruled that banning prisoners from receiving books amounted to a breach of their human rights.


I agree.

Echo - ask your son what sort of books he wants. He may prefer light escapist novels or fantasy or science fiction. The books you send don't have to be inspirational, he just needs to enjoy reading them. Any reading of books is mind-enhancing, so the fact that he's asking for books is a positive and inspirational thing in itself.

Including 'the sort of books you think it would be good for him to read' can come a bit later, slipped in with the others when he's more together and more thinking of a future past this prison time.


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Echo, one thing I've figured out over the years between working for Corrections and raising our son is that you cant force someone to change. I always use the example of smoking and how hard it is to quit, especially when you dont really want to. Trust me that the chapel there will have plenty of inspirational stuff for him to read if he wants it. Get him what he will want to read. It will engage his mind and its a great way to escape for a bit without, you know, actually escaping.


this isn't exactly a response to the question you asked .. .. ..

In CT the only books & mags that can be sent are those directly from the publisher; not those pkgd by a family member

I like the suggestion offered by Jabberwockey ~ to go to the facility library; doing some semblance of a social activity is not a bad idea.

Maybe by going there and seeing what they have to offer will help him decide what he wants to read ~ "inspirational biographies, fiction, narratives, or "how to live our life better" stuff would be great" ~ is coo,l if that's his area of interest; if not postage may be wasted


one day at a time
Echo...I hope you are okay.

At our jail here I could only send books via Amazon. Then the policy changed and we could bring hard back and paperback books but we would not get the back. Then it changed again and we could send no books at all because they said the library had way too many.

So...be sure to call and find out exactly what you can do right now.

Unbroken is a really good book and he might like it since it is about a guy written from a guys perspective. Also difficult child really likes all kinds of WWII books so I sent those. He also might like biographies about famous men?? Science fiction?

Scent of Cedar *

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Difficult Child's mom. Again. Always.

I don't know about the book question.

But I love the truth in your sign off.

Beloved, right?

Our beloved child, and we are beloved, ourselves, and somehow, it will be whatever it is going to be, but at the heart of it, beloved will not change.

Not permanently.


P.S. Remember Echo, when we were posting about Leonard Cohen's "Halleluiah"?

"Love is not a victory march. It's a cold and it's a broken Halleluiah."


But it does seem to be the only thing that is real, out of all the things that happen.


Roll With It
You might want to ask if used books can be sent from a used book vendor like Amazon Marketplace, Alibris, Abebooks, etc... or if they can only be brand new books. You can often find used books that are much cheaper and then you can send more.

I don't know what he likes, but sending books on mental health, religiously angled books etc... are only okay if HE wants them. Otherwise it could be seen as shoving your beliefs down his throat. I know of a few families who ended up with huge rifts over that sort of thing.

A friend of my parents is mostly in charge of our county jail. He says that westerns are extremely popular (authors like Louis L'Amour) even though many are older. He also told us that the Chicken Soup books are often sent by parents but the inmates don't seem fond of them.


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I agree with Jabber - not that my bro spend much time behind bars (days, not even weeks, at a time) - but bro said... the hours are so long, you need the kind of reading that absorbs hours. If it happens to be real-life, that's fine - truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.


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Thanks you all. I sent him Unbroken and Lamb ( a kind of fun book that his brothers and sister and I all liked). I also sent him underwear and socks through the support your inmate program, and put $20 on his account for toiletries. Last time I did that he spent it on candy, but thats out of my hands. I figure soap deodorant and shampoo, which he asked for, should last about a month. No more money till then no matter what the issue.

I accept one call a day. They are quite short and he is quite pleasant. His dad asked for a break so is not accepting calls right now, which is fine.

We are where we are.


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At the prison where I worked, a lot of the books in the library were donated but not from individuals. They were the old or surplus books from public or school libraries. We never accepted books donated from individuals. Books are an ideal hiding place for all kinds of contraband and each one must be thoroughly searched - very labor intensive for institutions that are usually short-staffed already due to budget cuts, etc.


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He says the library is for legal books only. I'm allowed to send books directly from Amazon and Barnes and Noble only. I'm giving it a shot!


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Donna, there is a way in Missouri doctor for an individual to donate books that helps with that although Im not exactly sure of the procedure. Maybe they had to do it through the public library? Will have to look into that one just out of curiosity.