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American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020 : Voices From The Inside

Posted on by Lauris Olson

Presenting newspapers written and published by incarcerated people from within federal and state prisons nationwide, American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020 : Voices From The Inside aims to offer a quarter-million page-images with searchable fulltext from more than 300 prison newspaper titles when completed. The first installment of six prison newspapers is now available for reading by Penn students, faculty, and staff on the JSTOR platform.

These newspapers provide important documentation of the US prison experience from inside prisons across 220 years, and they are an important voice for criminal justice advocacy. American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020 will include early debtors' prison newspapers published in 1800, many newsletters and newspapers with brief runs, and major journalistic works. The collection is projected to include The Prison Mirror (Stillwater Correctional Facility, MN, 1887-present), The Angolite (Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, 1952-present), and San Quentin News (San Quentin Prison, CA, 1941-present), in addition to titles from prisons in every state, with special attention paid to women's-only institutions.

Reveal Digital and JSTOR have posted three recent webinar recordings highlighting American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020. These webinars - free with personal registration - describe the history and variety of prison newspapers, relate the experiences of a former editor of The Angolite, and present the Prison Journalism Project, an active program encouraging prison journalism nationwide.

American Prison Newspapers, 1800-2020 is one collection in Reveal Digital's Diversity & Dissent project, a cooperative archival digitization project that explores civil society in 20th-century America. The Penn Libraries' five-year funding commitment through FY 2022 supports Diversity & Dissent's goal to move this collection into open access free from paywalls. Penn Librarian Nick Okrent, Coordinator for Humanities Collections, serves on Diversity & Dissent's editorial board.

Readers interested in the inner lives and creative visions of incarcerated persons may also be interested in the recently-published book, Marking Time : Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration / Nicole R. Fleetwood (Harvard University Press, 2020), available online through the Penn Libraries' De Gruyter University Press Library ebook collection.