"We The People" Legal Primer

Prison Book Program publishes “We the People Legal Primer” – a popular basic legal resource for prisoners.  This comprehensive legal resource has become one of our most frequently requested titles. Containing such useful and basic legal essentials such as what to wear to a court appearance, key legal terms, and Post-Conviction Remedies. We get over 100 requests specifically requesting this resource per month. We are making it available here for family and friends to print and send to loved ones in prison.

We the People Legal Primer + National Prisoner Resource List – Normal Font – 72 pages

We the People Legal Primer + National Prisoner Resource List – Condensed Font – 44 pages

We the People Legal Primer Only – Condensed Font – 40 pages

The Jailhouse Lawyer's Handbook

We also recommend “The Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook” published by The Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild.

This Handbook is a resource for prisoners who wish to file a federal lawsuit addressing poor conditions in prison or abuse by prison staff. It also contains limited general information about the American legal system.

This Handbook is available for free to anyone: prisoners, families, friends, activists, lawyers and others. It is available as a free download on the CCR website.

Frequently Asked Questions: Our Services for People in Prison

People in prison can write us a letter (via postal mail) and ask for books. The letter should include their name, address, and inmate ID number. It is best to request genres of books rather than specific titles. We also have a book request form that can be used by people inside or their family and friends.

No. We do not have the capacity to do so. It is prohibitively expensive to send large quantities of books through the mail. If you are a prison official looking for books for your library or program, please see our tips for finding books in your community.

We serve all states except Texas, California, Michigan, Nevada, Maryland and Illinois. 

Michigan and Maryland do not allow us to mail books to state prisons. Illinois is served exclusively by the amazing Urbana-Champaign Books to Prisoners program so we opted not to serve that state. Nevada requires books to be mailed first class which is not in our budget. Texas and California combined hold 1/5 of the US prison population. We do not have the capacity to serve that many additional people. Other books-to-prisoners groups serve the states we do not serve. See our list of other “Books to Prisoners” programs to find one. 

Because we have never advertised our services, we can only guess. We are occasionally listed on prisoner resource lists circulated by other organizations. People often say they heard about us from other prisoners or contacts on the outside.

All kinds of books. We find that with a few exceptions, the reading interests of folks in prison mimic those of the general public. Dictionaries are our most popular request – by far. We send out more than 2000 per year. Other popular titles include thesauruses, small business startup, exercise, drawing, exercise, fiction of all kinds, religion and much more.

People in prison use them for various reasons – writing letters to family, writing legal appeals, or just trying to understand unfamiliar words in the other books we send. Many people enter prison with limited reading skills and use their time to change that. Frustrated by his inability to express himself, Malcolm X famously taught himself to read and write in prison by copying every word in the dictionary.

Our selection of books depends on what people donate. Topics available vary widely. We also buy dictionaries and GED study guides.

In addition to books, we have a self-published legal reference, a resource guide that lists other organizations that help prisoners, and a few other booklets that cover topics that prisoners frequently request.

Most books are donated by individuals just like you. Occasionally, publishers and authors donate extra copies of their books. We also buy dictionaries, thesauruses, and GED study guides in bulk. Many generous people donate new books through our online wish lists too.