In furtherance of CAL’s mission to extend our advocacy beyond the courtroom, in November 2016, CAL initiated its Books Beyond Bars program. BBB’s mission is to provide reading materials to indigent, incarcerated individuals and to advocate for policies that support prisoners’ access to information. BBB’s goal is to encourage literacy, education, self-empowerment, personal growth, or simply to provide a brief escape from the dehumanization of the criminal justice system.

Since inception, BBB has sent over 2,000 books and magazines to indigent individuals in New York jails and prisons. Initially a program limited to CAL’s clients, BBB now also sends reading materials to the clients of two other major public defense offices, covering individuals convicted in criminal courts in all five boroughs. We have a library stocked with commonly requested items (such as dictionaries and high-school equivalency manuals) and books donated to BBB.


We think books are liberating, and our clients agree, as one wrote to us:

I have to say that this book ha[s] me like a kid again … When I read the book it unlock[s] things inside of me, it’s like I’m being set free, like someone gave me back my liberty … I would never forget this nice thing you’ve done for me. And you might think to yourself, for a book. But it’s not just a book, it’s the path that this book is about to set me on.

How you can help

We welcome your support.  Please visit our wishlist to help us fulfill specific client requests. 

If you would like to donate reading materials, please email us at booksbeyondbars@cfal.org. New nonfiction is our greatest need at the moment, and we are currently accepting reading materials in the following subjects of interest:

  • Black interest: biography/history/Black Power/Black Panthers
  • Puerto Rican & Dominican history
  • Self help/behavior/psychology
  • Body building/Workouts
  • Business/Entreprenuership
  • Dream Interpretation/Astrology/Tarot/Occult
  • Conspiracy Theories: Illuminati/New World Order/UFO
  • 2018/2019 TASC study guides
  • Cars/Motorcycles
  • Graphic novels/manga
  • True crime
  • Pets
  • Science/Nature/Animals
  • Natural health
  • Poetry
  • Architecture/Interior design
  • Biographies: Sports/Music/History
  • Islamic spirituality & history
  • Santeria, Yoruba
  • Music industry
  • Chess
  • Large print popular fiction
  • 2018/2019 computer books
  • 2018/2019 Almanacs
  • Popular magazines from 2019 only
  • Popular Fiction (New titles from 2017+)
    • James Patterson, Lee Child, Dan Brown, Vince Flynn, Harlan Coben, David Baldacci, Michael Connelly, Jonathan Kellerman, John Sanford, Stuart Woods, Janet Evanovich, Brad Thor, Iris Johansen, Ken Follett, Lisa Jackson, John Grisham, David Morrell, Sydney Sheldon, Dean Koontz, etc.
  • Urban Fiction
    • Ashley & JaQuavis, Wahida Clark, Deja King, Nikki Turner, Zane, Noire, Teri Woods, Donald Goines, Miasha, Miranda Parker, K'wan, LA Banks, Treasure Hernandez, Jessica Watkins, Tamicka Higgins, Nisa Santiago, Asia Hill, Kiki Swinton, Omar Tyree, Chunichi Knott, Keisha Ervin, Shannon Holmes, Vicki M. Stringer, De'Nesha Diamond, Nako, Carl Weber, Dominique Thomas, Sister Soulja, etc.
  • Fantasy Series Books
    • All R. A. Salvatore Series, Wheel of Time series, Games of Thrones series, Stephen King (Dark Tower Series & Witch Wizard Series), Beautiful Creatures Series, Sharrilyn Kennyon, Laurel K. Hamilton, Christine Feehan, and paranormal romance
  • Spanish Fiction & Non-Fiction
    • Latin American authors and all fiction/non-fiction authors, genres & topics listed here


Monetary Donations

We also welcome direct monetary donations payable to the Center for Appellate Litigation. 

CAL is a 501(c)(3) non-profit, so donations to Books Beyond Bars are tax deductible.


Brittany Francis, Arielle Reid, Christina Wong, Molly Schindler, and Ben A. Schatz coordinate this project for CAL.


Click here to donate to Books Beyond Bars.