If you’ve been to prison or have a loved one there, you know how important books and magazines are to people on the inside. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when officials have stopped visitation, having something to read is often a game changer.
But if you’ve ever tried to send a book or magazine to a loved one in prison, you also know it isn’t always easy. It is, however, always expensive. For most facilities, you pay high prices from a list of approved venders. And, even then, facilities still reject some books.
If you have a loved one in USP McCreary in Kentucky, your choices of approved venders just got shorter. In fact, it’s all the way down to one: Books N Things Warehouse. According to an “Inmate Bulletin” posted on Twitter by FAMM’s Kevin Ring, USP McCreary now requires that “ALL” books and magazines come from Books N Things.
Why did USP McCreary select Books N Things?
We have no idea. Books N Things is a New Jersey corporation. Its “Contact Us” page only has a post office box for an address: “PO Box 7330 – Shrewsbury, NJ 07702-7330.”
They also have a phone number (“1-800- 681-2740”) and a fax number (“1-800- 681-2741”). But, consistent with their “Customer Service Hours,” you can apparently only reach them on Tuesdays from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm EST, Wednesdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm EST and Thursdays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm EST. That’s it. They’re only “open” 11 hours a week.
USP McCreary’s decision to grant exclusive book and magazine rights to Books N Things is very different from ordinary BOP policy. For example, according to the BOP’s “Incoming Publications” Program Statement in 2011, books are allowed “from the publisher, from a book club, or from a bookstore.”
Is UPC McCreary’s deal with Books N Things good or bad?
We have no idea. But it seems weird. As Ring pointed out on Twitter, the decision by USP McCreary to go all in on Books N Things shuts the door on competitors. “Why is USP McCreary now stopping people from ordering from Amazon or Barnes & Noble? Requiring everything to be ordered from this one place?”
What’s even more odd is how little information there is about Books N Things. As indicated above, their “Contact Us” page doesn’t include a physical address. Their CEO, Gabriela Giuliani, has a blank LinkedIn page. They only have 202 books available for sale on their basic website. And they don’t have any reviews and only a handful of complaints on the Better Business Bureau.
USP McCreary decided to only let incarcerated people receive books and magazines from Books N Things. It’s hard to find information about Books N Things. And the only feedback available on the BBB page includes complaints from incarcerated people or their loved ones.
If you have a loved one in USP McCreary or have experience with Books N Things, please contact Peter J. Tomasek from Interrogating Justice. He has been investigating the arrangement between USP McCreary and Books N Things and wants more information.
How to Justice and Interrogating Justice tried calling and emailing Books N Things directly to ask about the deal but haven’t heard back. Perhaps we will when their “Customer Service Hours” start tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.