Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Writing { and reading and publishing } ~

Publishing from Prison

I have a friend who’s the librarian at a prison.

Talking with him is an education.

I’d already known that most prisons are not even close to rehabilitative.

I’d known that, at least in the U.S.A., there are more and more “prisons for profit“—the more prisoners, the more profit

But talking with my friend has opened up the personal dimension of a prisoner’s life.

I’d never before even thought about books in a prison—now, my novel is in the library that my friend oversees—I’ve had one of the prisoners review my book

But, what about the writer being the prisoner?

I found an article on The Point by Chandra BozelkoWhat We Miss by Canceling Maine Inmates’ Right to Publish from Prison (it’s about U.S. prisons but more than likely applies globally…).

She spent time in prison and was able, for awhile, to publish a newspaper column from behind bars.

She’s been released and continues to write about prison on her blog.

The main point I gleaned from her article on The Point is that letting prisoners publish while incarcerated is the best (and cheapest) way to reveal the failures and abuses of the prison system.

I’ll share a few excerpts from her article:

“…double-blind corrections prevents people from seeing what really happens inside prisons: the abuse, the waste and the failed policies.”

“In Pennsylvania, corrections officers were coercing inmates into fights and competitions called the “retard Olympics” for five years before authorities discovered this misconduct.”

“To write and be published from behind bars always takes an accomplice. I hand-wrote all of my columns and mailed them home to be typed….it takes a village to publish an inmate’s writing.”

“I think most people fear inmate columnists because, usually, prisoner writings seem like one big grumble. Glasses in overcrowded prisons are always half-empty. But a good prison columnist is even-handed in reporting about both their facilities and themselves.”

“Letting prisoners publish from within lets lawmakers and the public know what is working and what is failing.”

And, from conversations with my friend and the review of my book from a prisoner, I’m sure letting inmates publish would let us all feel the human qualities of these people
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2 responses to “Publishing from Prison

  1. libraryassociate July 10, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    It saddens me to hear about voices being caged, leaving inmates to realize just how silenced they really are in society.
    I want to tell you where I work, the prison where I work, the two most treasured items an inmate has and it will shock you.
    It isn’t their snacks, music, tv, or even their rec time. It is- ‘Pen and paper’
    These are treasured in their world. Sacred is what they call pushing the pen. “Your 18 kid you going to gang bang or push the pen and become a man?” a lifer will tell a kid entering the system. “Push the pen!
    Those two items are when an inmate is most free. They want to talk to the world and they need to write. They will use a pencil until it is smaller than a match. They will soak a marker in water to extend its life. A non state issued pen a pen that clicks will be met with tears and carried with honor. Any item with any white space (napkin, sign, scrap paper, Kleenex, cardboard, lids etc, will be filled with poetry, sadness, grievances, kites to friends, goals, and yes novels, columns and articles. Essays so rich you will cry at the effort.
    Prisoners should be able to publish. and we should help them.


  2. Alexander M Zoltai July 10, 2015 at 6:29 pm

    Wonder-filled comment, sir…

    One would hope, being on the inside (for part of your day), you could help us understand what to do and how to do it…

    I welcome from you, your written instructions for how to help prisoners have their pen-pushing published and will publish it on this blog…

    Liked by 1 person

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