Books Behind Bars

“Books Behind Bars” Project

Books Behind Bars is an ongoing  project of the Prison Mindfulness Institute in Deerfield, Massachusetts.  I’m happy to say that Books Behind Bars is now one of Sweeping Heart Zen’s ongoing community service activities.

We always appreciate book donations!

In describing this program, The Prison Mindfulness Institute says,

“We have distributed over 57,000 books on mindfulness, meditation, and Buddhism to prisoners through this project since 1989. Prisoners send us a constant flow of thank you letters telling us how even one book has radically changed their life. For most prisoners, books are the only access they have to dharma teachings. All books donated are donated to us by people like you.”

When I contacted PMI about our decision, the office manager at PMI wrote back to say,

“We always appreciate book donations!”

“What we need most are softcover books on beginner meditation, mindfulness, and Buddhism.”

And as one would expect, what the PMI office manager told me echoes what the PMI website says about the kinds of books Books Behind Bars needs. PMI requests that we donate the following kinds of books because,

“Books on beginning meditation or mindfulness practice (examples: Pema Chodron, Joseph Goldstein, Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, Cheri Huber, Jon-Kabat Zinn, etc) are needed most. We also have several requests for books on yoga (ones with drawn illustrations are best).”

If you would like to donate books to Books Behind Bars through Sweeping Heart Zen, you’re welcome to bring book donations to any of our events and we’ll happily pack up your gift and pay the postage required to send your donation to PMI in Deerfield.  Here is a link to our calendar of events:

Unfortunately, PMI and Sweeping Heart Zen cannot accept donations of hardcover books, magazines, loose leaf binders, or CD’s. Prisons do not allow inmates to have this kind of material.  Please, if you donate,  donate softcover, gently used books. Donated books can have underlining and some writing in them.  Of course donations of new softcover books are welcome, too.

If you want to make a donation directly to Books Behind Bars at the Prison Mindfulness Institute, here is a link with all the information you’ll need:

If you would like more information about how to donate books or if you have other questions, please contact me at

Very best wishes,

Mark Nelson