My pen pal, Alyssa (@comradealyssa
), is incarcerated at a state prison in Maryland. She is a Black transgender woman of color who has been incarcerated for nearly a decade.
I have been corresponding with Alyssa since October 2017. I connected with her through Black and Pink's (an LGBTQ prison abolition organization) pen pal database and have since served as her only advocate outside of prison.
In the past months, I have gotten to know her and her needs. Self-education is extremely important to her, and I have helped her connect with book giving programs (such as LGBT Books to Prisoners, Books Through Bars, and Tranzmission Prison Project).
However, she has specific book requests (including comic books, LGBTQ titles, and religious texts) that cannot be requested through book giving programs. Since December, I have been asking my network to help fulfill these ongoing book requests.
These books, she tells me, are her lifeline and that her life has greatly improved because of this access to knowledge and information. I have hooked her up with books about religion, law, LGBTQ rights, and more since we have been corresponding. Many of these titles help her self-advocate in legal matters.
I successfully met a goal of a previous crowdfunding campaign
on Alyssa's behalf, back when the prison book policy was temporarily reversed, as reported by the Washington Post
. Fortunately, the new policy was challenged and rolled back; Alyssa no longer will have any restrictions on receiving books. (However, she can only receive only 11 books at a time and hardcover books are strongly discouraged.)
In two recent letters, dated on July 18 and again on July 24, she asked for a series of law books to be sent urgently. Some titles include Persuasive Written and Oral Advocacy: In Trial and Appellate Courts, Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Law 2016, and Self Help Post-Conviction Handbook. The 21 different titles she requested collectively cost well over $1,000, so she has asked me to launch another fundraiser to help cover these books.
Once we meet the minimum goal of $1,000, we will continue collecting and raising money for other titles she has requested. As of August 1, we have approximately (not including the 21 books she recently requested) 32 books on the list. As time goes on, she will request more as well. In addition to magazine subscriptions, these funds will also be sent directly to Alyssa for commissary funds and to cover any institutional debt. In the future, we may pool funds together for legal support if needed.
Please support Alyssa! This is a great way to not only support a trans woman of color in the carceral system, but a way to uplift a comrade in need and demonstrate solidarity.
As of Sunday, November 25, 2018, the fundraising goal was increased from $2,000 to $5,000 to meet Alyssa's knowledge demands. As of Friday, December 7, this fundraiser was updated to expand financial support to Alyssa's commissary, legal, and institutional support—meaning this fund is no longer just for books.