MORGANTOWN, W. Va. For people behind bars in six Appalachian states, used books are one of the few forms of escape.
Volunteers with the Appalachian Prison Book Project ship hundreds of them wrapped in brown paper to state and federal inmates in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Other states have had prison book programs for decades. The six Appalachian states had none until six years ago. English professor Katy Ryan and graduate students at West Virginia University started it after realizing the need.
They raise money for shipping and use books that are privately donated.
The group corresponds with inmates to see what books they want. Restrictions by the prisons are many, including a ban on spiral-bound books because the wire is a potential weapon. Some institutions refuse books altogether.