What might be considered by many as the most important of prisoner publications is Prison Legal News. PLN is a top-quality monthly newspaper distributed in prisons throughout the country and originated by Paul Wright, formerly a U.S. Army military policeman then a convicted murderer who became a jailhouse lawyer and, subsequently, a prisoners’ rights advocate. Battling public and private prison operators to gain reform and attention for human rights for prisoners, PLN has focused on the need for protection against violence by other prisoners or guards, the right to adequate medical care, and to freedom of expression. The publication provides detailed information about political issues and news that affect the incarcerated directly, reporting on relevant court cases and educating prisoners about how to fight their legal battles to achieve their legal rights.
Editor Wright has been battling prison censorship for a long time and has filed more than 20 lawsuits to preserve the publication in American prisons. Why does he put himself at risk to provide this information to prisoners? “Because no one else will,” he says. An annual subscription to PLN is $24 for prisoners, $80 for attorneys and institutions, and $30 for other individuals. To subscribe, contact:
Prison Legal News
P.O. Box 1151
Lake Worth, FL 33460
Phone: (561) 360-2523
Of equally significant importance is The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons (JPP). The Canadian-based non-profit is a distinguished academic journal publishing the work of convicts and ex-convicts since 1988. JPP earned its reputation as a clearing house of knowledge and academic studies produced by imprisoned writers to enlighten the public about the current state of prison institutions. It creates an educational forum that allows “criminalized” men and women to develop research that concerns them directly.
Each issue of JPP focuses on a specific theme, such as Education in Prisons or Women’s Issues. To maintain its high standards of quality, all writing submitted for publication undergoes a stringent peer-review process to select the finest articles from prisoners with strong academic backgrounds or advanced educational degrees.
The editors believe definitions of deviance are traditionally put forth, with few exceptions, by social scientists, media representatives, politicians and people in the legal community who have no experience of prison life. Too often, JPP says, their understanding of the people participating in those defined acts are sadly lacking, and their analyses exclude the voices of the people most affected. Such a lack of understanding, the editors feel, may facilitate repressive and reactionary penal policies and practices. The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons serves, therefore, as a fresh, new source of information that counteracts popularly held stereotypes and misconceptions about those who face the deprivation of liberty. To subscribe, contact:
The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons
C/O University of Ottawa Press
542 King Edward Avenue
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Phone: (613) 562-5246
The Prison Journal is the international and interdisciplinary Sage Publications periodical which presents a diversity of views from distinguished experts who explore various aspects of correctional punishment, new and progressive theories, research, policy and practice. The Journal provides news about innovative programs, state-of the-art surveys, and legal and historical analysis.
Special issues regularly supplement The Prison Journal’s coverage with articles offering an in-depth analysis of a single topic, such as “Women in Prison and Jails,” “Education in Correctional Settings,” and “Drug-Involved Offenders.” Other topics include criminal justice administration and law, health and mental health, history, political science, psychology, public administration, public policy and sociology.
Originally published by the Pennsylvania Prison Society, America’s oldest prison reform organization founded in 1787, The Prison Journal continues to gather vital insights and professional opinions on emerging trends, innovations and developments in the rapidly changing world of corrections and alternative sentencing. Available from:
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
Cell Door Magazine is written mostly by prisoners who describe the incarceration experience and how the ex-prisoner fares once back on the street. Content runs the gamut from poetry to short stories, from art to op-ed commentary. Selected for quality and educational or entertainment value, the editors introduce the men and women behind bars. Articles range from self-help and self-pity to current topics, insight, empathy and pathos. But the primary focus is always on how living behind bars affects a human life, revealing to those who don’t already know, that prisoners can be intelligent, personable and talented human beings. To subscribe, contact:
Mid-September to June:
Cell Door Magazine
12200 Road 41.9
Mancos, CO 81328
July to mid-September:
Cell Door Magazine
6 Tolman Rd
Peaks Island, ME 04108
Of interest to prisoners, but not actually targeted to an incarcerated readership, is the Journal of Correctional Education. Published by the Correctional Education Association for professionals in the field of penal education, its articles concern post-secondary education, as well as ABE, ESL, pre-GED and GED classes offered in prisons. The organization does not focus specifically on advanced academic education; however, it does emphatically support the concept of prison education as the most effective means to rehabilitation.
On the Association website, their stated position reads:
“Since 1990, the literature has shown that prisoners who attend educational programs while they are incarcerated are less likely to return to prison following their release. Studies in several states have indicated that recidivism rates have declined where prisoners have received an appropriate education. Furthermore, the right kind of educational program leads to less violence by prisoners involved in the programs and a more positive prison environment. Effective education programs are those that help prisoners with their social skills, artistic development and dealing with their emotions.”
To subscribe, one must be a member of the Correctional Education Association. Annual membership fee is $65 for an individual. Contact:
Correctional Education Association
8182 Lark Brown Road
Elkridge, MD 21075
Phone: (800) 783-1232
The Corcoran Sun, a newsletter originally published from a California state prison cell, publishes poems and short literary prose written by prisoners and includes news, prison legal news, jokes, self-help articles and advertisements of interest to the prisoner population. Each issue costs 6 stamps, or $2.76 (as of August 2013). There are usually 3 to 4 articles per issue, as well as monthly excerpts from the novels of Editor-in-Chief Dave Babb. To subscribe, contact:
C/O Freebird Publishers
P.O. Box 541
North Dighton, MA 02764
FAMM-gram, published three times a year, is the e-mail newsletter of Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM) advocating for fair state and federal sentencing. Its colorful pages provide reports on FAMM’s work to reform mandatory minimum sentencing laws and information about injustices resulting from mandatory minimum laws.
Articles are informative, ranging from the new crack law to the rumors of federal prisoners receiving increased time off for good behavio
r. The FAMMgram is free and does not accept prisoner submissions. At the current time, the printed newsletter is no longer sent to prisoners.
1612 K Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20006
Fortune News, published by The Fortune Society, is a quarterly dedicated to education, advocacy, and successful re-entry. Each issue includes Justice Beat, a summary of research in the field; Lentes Latinos (“Latin Lens”), a Spanish-language column about criminal justice issues faced by the Hispanic community; New & Noteworthy Prison Programs, a feature that highlights programs around the nation that are doing good work; Center Stage, a selection of poetry, comics, drawings and other creative works from incarcerated or formerly incarcerated individuals and more.
Sample topics in past issues have included Re-entry, Immigration and Detention, Giving Back, Crystal Meth, Aging in Prison, Alternatives to Incarceration, Prison Conditions, The Cost of Incarceration, Shattered Families, The Job Search, Hepatitis C: The Silent Epidemic, Voices from Death Row, and Youth. The magazine is free to prisoners.
Founded in 1967, the Fortune Society is a Long Island, New York-based nonprofit social service and advocacy organization with a mission to support successful re-entry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration. If you would like to learn more about Fortune’s programs and services, you are welcome to write, to call or just drop in and talk.
29-76 Northern Boulevard
Long Island City, NY 11101
Tel: (212) 691-7554
Prisoner Express appears once a year in print and online from the Durland Alternative Library at Cornell University. Designed to promote creative self-expression amongst prisoners, it publishes writing and educational projects for prisoners who sign up through their newsletter. To subscribe at no cost, contact:
127 Anabel Taylor Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Tel: (607) 255-6486