How Prison Writers Struggle To Be Heard

Prisoners who speak out publicly about system injustices often place themselves in danger by doing so.

Corrections officials have labeled prisoners who find success as writers and advocates as troublemakers or threat risks. As a result, prison writers may find that their communications are given a higher level of censorship, more often rejected by mailroom staff, and sometimes delayed. Corrections officials have also attempted to pit prisoners against one another, threatening to take away computer privileges for a whole group because of one person’s writings or communications.

If the department isn’t successful in suppressing prisoners’ voices, officials may claim that prisoners’ accounts are false. And too often, outlets—fearing litigation perhaps—will accept and print those claims and comments, regardless of their veracity.

Prison writers have to weigh their personal safety and freedoms against getting their message out. They must brave everything to speak for those who often find themselves without a voice.