What started as a graduate course at West Virginia University in 2005 on prison literature has grown into a nonprofit organization that extends throughout Appalachia.
Katy Ryan, professor and founder of the Appalachian Prison Book Project, saw there was a need for a book project in the Appalachian region at the time.
Dominique Bruno, outreach coordinator for APBP, said Ryan's father inspired her after working with a book project in the Chicago area.
Ryan said her students and colleagues also encouraged her to create a project in West Virginia with the hopes of receiving class credit and gaining a sense of well-being.
The APBP began collecting books in a church basement for incarcerated individuals.
The APBP later grew into an organization that is now a part of the Department of English.
Residing now in the Garlow house located on Spruce Street, APBP volunteers receive letters from inmates for new book requests and do their best to meet their needs, Bruno said.
Because the project is a tax-exempt 501c3 nonprofit organization, APBP is able to collect and send free books to men and women who are imprisoned throughout the region.
"Because we are now a 501c3, we can offer tax deductions when individuals make charitable donations, which we couldn't do before," Bruno said.
Aside from books, inmates may also request other
publications, including magazines and dictionaries.
Bruno said each year approximately 1,000 books are donated to (West Virginia, Virginia., Maryland., Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee) inmates.
Bruno said the APBP is a WVU student organization within the Department of English, and students from other departments within the University continue to get involved with the project each year.
Bruno said one of her favorite aspects of the project is the satisfaction she receives from helping others.
"Statistics show that those people who are incarcerated and read are less likely to end back up in prison. If we're supplying books, then we are helping the literacy rate of those in prison," she said.
Michael Buso, a previous summer intern for APBP through WVU's graduate program, said he believes reading books provides an opportunity for inmates to maintain their education and stay out of trouble.
"I've learned a lot about what people who are incarcerated go through, how bored they are and what their needs are after reading their letters," Buso said.
One of Buso's hopes for the future is that the project receive more grants and plan future fund-raisers and events to help increase volunteers in order to keep doing what they do.