The USA incarcerates 1% of its population, more than any other nation. Most convictions are connected to addiction. The American prison population is 8-12% Pagan. This means that 1 in 1000 Americans are incarcerated Pagans! Think about living without any spiritual resources during the hardest time of your life. What if your only religious teachers were misogynistic, white supremacist, homophobic, very violent gangs posing as Pagans? Imagine dealing with addiction with only 12 Step meetings but not feeling safe to publicly worship your higher power. And in the crushing poverty you cannot buy any books, so you depend on donations to books to prisoners organizations, where the demand for Pagan books is far greater than the supply.
When paroled Pagans return to your community, what would you like them to know about Paganism? Your contribution actually decides.
Easiest (and Free) Ways to Help!
Choose Providence Books Through Bars as your Amazon Smile charity!
Sign up your account. Got to Community Rewards and click edit. Then copy and post organization number into the search box: 91546. Click the dot to the left of Athens Books to Prisoners. Click enroll.
Donate Used Books!
Illiteracy plays a large role in recidivism. The more books available in prisons, the more prisoners read. Many people share their books with dozens of people, so your books will go to good use! There are many organizations in the US that will happily accept your donation of used or new paperback books and send them to people in prison. Individuals let the programs know what sorts of books they want to read and the organization sends a book they have in that category. Books about Paganism are always in the top ten requested. MA’s Prison Book Program has a list of books to prisoners organizations. Check out this link to find the one nearest you in the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom. This link will let you know what types of books are not allowed. Make sure to send your donation media rate – it’s much cheaper!
You could always volunteer with one of these groups, packing boxes or replying to requests, one evening a month. Most are completely volunteer run.
This is a great festival, coven, grove, kindred, etc project! Ask your local college, coffee house, independent book store, Pagan shop, cool place, etc if you can place a clean box for book donations in their establishment. Don’t forget to collect the books frequently. You can also ask that people attending your public ritual or festival bring a soft cover book donation! Or have a yard sale and buy books especially written for incarcerated Pagans to donate, like long-time Arizona prison ministry leaders’ Rev. Ashleen O’Gaea and Rev. Carol Garr’s Enchantment Encumbered: The Study and Practice of Wicca in Restricted Environments, and Steel Bars, Sacred Waters.
Write a Pagan in Prison
Gullveig Press has begun working with Pagan prisoners and Pagan pen pals to create a guide for how to have a safe and positive experience writing an incarcerated Pagan. However, it’s being done via handwritten snail mail and around the chaos of daily prison life and my Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, severe Chemical Sensitivity, and the little known pain disorder Dercum’s Disease. It will take a while.
If you are a member of the Unitarian Universalist church who is age 21 or older, you may join their prison pen pal program. You will first need to write an essay about why you want to write an incarcerated person and have a letter of reference. The person you write will only know your first name and will send their letter to the CLF who then will send it to you, so your full name and address are unknown to your pen pal. The agreement is to write for 6 months.
If you are age 18 or older and want to write a LGBTQ or HIV+ Pagan in prison, Pink & Black has a program. Because mail call is often public, writing an incarcerated queer person tells the guards and other inmates that someone on the outside cares, which could prevent harm to your pen pal. First write a brief email about why you want to write someone in prison. Once accepted, you can search for Pagan members. On the webpage listing members seeking pen pals, click on the upper left corner to get the Search Menu. Choose “Pagan” or “Wiccan” as religion (and other qualifiers, if you want). Then read about the available pen pals and make your choice. If you don’t want your pen pal to know your address, you can use Jmail.cc, as explained on the Pink & Black website.* They have chapters where you can volunteer in a few cities. Black and Pink National Office, 6223 Maple St #4600, Omaha, NE 68104 Website: https://www.blackandpink.org/penpal-newsletter
Afraid to use your real address? Jmail has you covered!
Send for Our Pagan Prisoner Primer!
Email us for the 50 page Word document attachment. Our newsletter style resources are printed with very small margins and tight line spacing with very little white space so we can fit the most information on the fewest sheets of paper.
Volunteer with (or Donate to) a Pagan Prison Ministry!
These organizations visit and teach Pagans in prison, often leading rituals. (In some states Pagans may not worship together without outside clergy present.) Even if you can’t go into prison, there’s office work and sometimes correspondence classes to do. Plus they can always use donations of money and paperback Pagan books.
People burn/flake out quickly. I applaud the three people who are still serving as Pagan Prison Ministries: CrowMoon who visits about 6 South Carolina prisons, which means she’s driving hours, paying for gas, preparing Wiccan lessons and rituals while staying active in her local Pagan community and writing a 1 sheet newsletter for each Sabbat that is sent for free to prisoners in North Carolina. Shoot, I may have mixed up my Carolinas, but she doesn’t even have a website for donations. Also there’s Alexandria Temple of Universal Metaphysics, one man in Colorado to whom I believe I donated about 75 books about 9 years ago. If that’s him, he’s really shown endurance! And Mother Earth Ministries-ATC, who have consistently been focused on the Pagans in one Tuscan prison.
Have a Pagan Prison Ministry? Please contact us with your information! We will include you here, send you a free pdf of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners, and you may buy our book for the price of manufacturing!
Help Pagans Legally with Their Right to Practice Their Religion!
“The Pagan Prisoner Advocate’s Guide exposes a national travesty — a pogrom of persecution against Pagans behind bars — and reveals a Wiccan clergywoman’s secrets to helping this vulnerable segment of the Craft community. Lady Passion (Dixie Deerman) has taught Witchcraft to incarcerated and institutionalized people nationwide for decades, and has enabled them to secure their religious rights. Lady Passion explains how some laws penalize magical practices and make Pagans prone to arrest or committal. And she gives a blow-by-blow account of the petty and perverse ways that prison and institutional staff employ to violate the religious rights of Pagan and Wiccan inmates and patients. Lady Passion’s experiences besting bigots with her wicked mix of cunning, courage, compassion, and resolve provide a model for volunteers to emulate. Ultimately, Lady Passion encourages readers to step up and volunteer to advocate for convicts and the committed, and provides surefire insider tips to ensure they succeed.”
A Jailhouse Lawyer’s Manual 10th Ed, 2014, 1288 pages, $30. A handbook of legal rights and procedures designed to inform prisoners of their rights and how use to judicial process to secure these rights on both the federal and state level, with an emphasis on New York State law. The additional Immigration & Consular Access Supplement (102 pages) contains information about the immigration law consequences of criminal convictions for people who are not U.S. Citizens. The JLM is $30 if shipped directly to prisoners; $105 for all others. The Supplement is $5 for prisoners, $22 for all others. Available free by individual chapter if downloaded from the website by an outside source, printed out, and mailed to the prisoner. The 11th edition should be out soon. Columbia Human Rights Law Review, 435 West 116th Street, New York, NY 10027, http://blogs2.law.columbia.edu/jlm
Prisoners’ Self Help Litigation Manual. The Prisoners’ Self-Help Litigation Manual (John Boston & Dan Manville, 4th Ed, 2010, 960 pages, $39.95 + $6 S&H) is an indispensable guide for prisoners and prisoner advocates seeking to understand the rights guaranteed to prisoners by law and how to protect those rights. Clear, comprehensive, practical advice provides prisoners with everything they need to know on conditions of confinement, civil liberties in prison, procedural due process, the legal system, how to litigate, conducting effective legal research, and writing legal documents. Written by two legal and penitentiary experts with intimate knowledge of prisoner’s rights and legal aid work, authors John Boston and Daniel E. Manville strategically focus on federal constitutional law, providing prisoners and those wishing to assist them with the most important information concerning legal rights. PO Box 1151, Prison Legal News, Lake Worth, FL 33460
Protecting Your Health and Safety: A Litigation Guide For Inmates by Robert E. Toone. Southern Poverty Law Center. 325 pages. $10 and shipping. An easy to read, plain language guide prisoners can use to identify and litigate federal civil rights claims against prison officials. Topics discussed include the First to Fourteenth Amendments, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. Over 130 page discussion on how to write a complaint, seek in forma pauperis status, ask for appointment of counsel, respond to motions to dismiss, respond to motions for summary judgment, conduct discovery, and even present your case at trial. PO Box 1151, Prison Legal News, Lake Worth, FL 33460
The Disciplinary Self-Help Litigation Manual (Dan Manville, 2nd Ed, 2015, 368 pages, $49.95 + $6 S&H) is designed to inform prisoners of their rights when faced with the consequences of a disciplinary hearing. This authoritative and comprehensive work educates prisoners about their rights throughout this process and helps guide them at all stages, from administrative hearing through litigation. This invaluable how-to guide offers step by step information for both state and federal prisoners and includes a 50 state analysis of relevant case law. PO Box 1151, Prison Legal News, Lake Worth, FL 33460