On March 24, 1800, Forlorn Hope was published within a prison in New York state, edited by an incarcerated person. In the intervening 200+ years, over 700 prison newspapers have been published from U.S. prisons in all fifty states. American Prison Newspapers will bring together hundreds of these periodicals from across the country into one collection that will represent penal institutions of all kinds, with special attention paid to women-only institutions.
With the United States incarcerating more individuals than any other nation–almost 2 million as of 2023–these publications represent a vast dimension of media history. These publications depict and report on all manner of life within the walls of prisons, from the quotidian to the upsetting. Incarcerated journalists walk a tightrope between oversight by administration–even censorship–and seeking to report accurately on their experiences inside. Some publications were produced with the sanction of institutional authorities; others were produced underground.
Development of the collection began in July 2020, with new content added regularly. The American Prison Newspapers collection is made possible by libraries that have provided funding to cover the publishing costs, along with institutions and individuals that are opening their archives to provide the source material for digitization. Thanks to their contributions, the collection has been fully open access since July 2021.
Watch featured speakers share more about the collection and about prison journalism:
- James McGrath Morris, author of Jailhouse Journalism
- Kerry Myers, former editor of the The Angolite
- Shaheen Pasha and Yukari Kane, founders of the Prison Journalism Project
Open access to the collection on JSTOR
The American Prison Newspapers collection is open access and freely available to everyone who wishes to use it. Libraries can help their users discover the collection by adding it to A-Z lists and incorporating it into research guides in U.S. History, Sociology, Journalism, and Criminology & Criminal Justice. In addition, libraries can activate the collection in the following discovery services: ProQuest Summon, Ex Libris Alma, EBSCO Discovery Service, and OCLC WorldCat Discovery Services.
Reveal Digital will undertake diligent efforts to protect the privacy of individuals depicted in the pages of the publications in this collection, and will take steps to notify the individuals and institutions that have contributed to the publications in this collection. If you are a writer, editor, or other contributor to a publication made available as part of American Prison Newspapers and encounter personal information of any kind that should be removed from view, please write to us to request its removal:
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Please include an address or any other contact information at which you can be reached, and we will respond as soon as possible.
Feel free to contact us at email@example.com with any further questions about the availability of the newspapers in this collection.
American Prison Newspapers advisory panel
Reveal Digital is developing the American Prison Newspapers collection with the help of an advisory panel representing diverse perspectives from communities impacted by the content. We are grateful for their time and counsel.
- Dan Berger, Associate Professor and Director of the Washington Prison History Project, University of Washington at Bothell
- Ellen Belcher, Special Collections Librarian, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- William Drummond, Professor of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley, adviser to the San Quentin News, and author of Prison Truth: The Story of the San Quentin News
- Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, Angola Museum Executive Committee member, researcher for The Angolite, and professor of Criminal Justice at Grambling State University, emerita
- Doran Larson, Professor of Literature, Hamilton College and Director of the American Prison Writing Archive
- Kerry Myers, Deputy Director at the Louisiana Parole Project, former editor of The Angolite
- Ana Noriega, Assistant Director of Collections Management, Colby College
- Robert Pollock, Program Manager, PEN America Prison Writing Program
- Philip Vance Smith II, Editor, Nash News
- Tony Wallin-Sato, Programs Coordinator for Project Rebound Humboldt State University
The following libraries, archives, individuals,and publishers have agreed to provide source material for scanning. Please contact us if you or your organization has source material that you would like to contribute to the project:
- Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records
- Brigham Young University
- Bucknell University
- Colorado State Library
- Connecticut State Library
- Denver Public Library
- Florida State University
- Idaho State University Library
- Indiana State Library
- Library of Michigan
- Louisiana State University
- Minnesota Legislative Reference Library
- Mule Creek Post, CA; D. Babbs, editor
- Nash News (North Carolina: Editor: Phillip V. Smith)
- Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse at the Nebraska Library Commission
- Oklahoma State University
- Prison Action News
- Private Donors: Kelsey Kauffman, Eleanor Novek
- The Pelican; David Nygen, former editor
- State Library of North Carolina
- State Library of Oregon
- Tulane University
- University of Arkansas
- University of California, Davis
- University of Connecticut
- University of Hawai’i
- University of Illinois
- University of Kentucky
- University of New Mexico
- University of Oregon
- University of Washington Libraries
- University of Wisconsin
- University of Wyoming
- West Virginia University
- Whitman College
The costs associated with publishing this important collection have been provided by 64 academic libraries that contributed to the Diversity & Dissent Fund or directly to the project, as well as the Mellon Foundation, which supported the project through a generous $500,000 grant. We are grateful for the participation and support of all the funders and contributors that have made this work possible.