Human Stories From Prison
November 6, 2010 9:44 AM   Subscribe

"Between the Bars is a weblog platform for prisoners, through which the 1% of America which is behind bars can tell their stories. Since prisoners are routinely denied access to the Internet, we enable them to blog by scanning letters. We aim to provide a positive outlet for creativity, a tool to assist in the maintenance of social safety nets, an opportunity to forge connections between prisoners and non-prisoners, and a means to promote non-criminal identities and personal expression. We hope to improve prisoner's lives, and help to reduce recidivism."

There are only two pages of posts thus far. Some are transcribed at the bottom, and include photos and/or a description of the inmate/writer.
posted by gman (22 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite
This is tremendous, thank you. It looks like they're taking volunteers to do transcriptions.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 9:50 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Routinely denied access to the internet? But I keep hearing that prisons are like condos where inmates get cable TV and minibars in their cells!
posted by JHarris at 10:00 AM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

posted by JHarris at 10:00 AM on November 6, 2010

Great post. Thanks.
posted by josher71 at 10:02 AM on November 6, 2010

Is it really up to 1%? That is astounding.
posted by freebird at 10:06 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

I wonder how kosher this is with restricted communications of prisoners. AFAIK, the Federal system wishes to know what you're saying and to whom. A system like this could be abused for distributing stenographic messages.
posted by pwnguin at 10:22 AM on November 6, 2010

I don't think many people can even read shorthand anymore, so that shouldn't be a problem.
posted by Wolfdog at 10:32 AM on November 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

This one is worth a read. Well written and interesting. And sad. It says it's written by a "Long-Termers Representative". Not sure if that means he's a prisoner or not, but he has an engaging writer's voice.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:39 AM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

A random google found example of prisoners using encrypted communications. I know I've seen stories of letters using A/B stenography on top of encryption.
posted by pwnguin at 10:50 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

The United States of America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Though home to a little less than 5% of the world’s population, the US holds 25% of the world’s prisoners. According to a US Department of Justice report published in 2006, over 7.2 million people were at that time in prison, on probation, or on parole. That means roughly 1 in every 32 Americans are held by the justice system. According to the International Centre of Prison Studies at King’s College London, of that 7.2 million, 2.3 million are in prison. The People's Republic of China comes in second place with 1.6 million, despite its population being over four times that of the United States. (source)

Look here for some more info and some nice graphs.


World Prison Population List (via)
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:55 AM on November 6, 2010 [9 favorites]

Many years ago (1995), I was one of the creators of a website, The Surfing Monkey, and we had a section called "Dead Man Talking", which was written by a death-row inmate in San Quentin. He would send us handwritten sheets, we'd transcribe and post them, and they essentially talked all about life on death row, never his case or personal life outside of prison. The then-governer of California, Pete "Scumsucker" Wilson, took offense to our site, and tried to make our lives (I had three cofounders of the site, one a guy with fairly high public visibility) difficult, but once Newsweek did a short piece on us, Wilson backed off. This site made me feel some vindication, thanks for the post.
posted by dbiedny at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

This is great - both with regard to content and the effort that has gone into it from both sides of the fence.
posted by flippant at 11:07 AM on November 6, 2010

1% of America is in prison
2% of Americans are on probation or parole
The country spent $50B on 'correction' in 2007, consuming the per-capita GDP of 1+ million people.
That cost will rise to $75B in 2011.

For local comparisons:
1% of Americans hold 47% of the cash
1% of Americans work for Wal-Mart
2% of Americans live abroad

For international comparisons:
The United States has the highest prison population rate in the world, some 738 per 100,000 of the national population, followed by
Russia (611),
St Kitts & Nevis (547),
U.S. Virgin Is. (521),
Turkmenistan (c.489),
Belize (487),
Cuba (c.487),
Palau (478),
British Virgin Is. (464),
Bermuda (463),
Bahamas (462),
Cayman Is. (453),
American Samoa (446),
Belarus (426) and
Dominica (419).
World Prison Population List (Seventh Edition)
posted by nickrussell at 11:24 AM on November 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

anything i can do to help, mefmail me. Some family works with inmates and i would like to join in helping them, this could be a great thing.
posted by clavdivs at 11:47 AM on November 6, 2010

pwnguin, I believe you meant steganography, as Wolfdog subtly pointed out.
posted by Monochrome at 12:40 PM on November 6, 2010

Oh. Words, my only weakness.
posted by pwnguin at 1:02 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

nickrussell- 1% of the population in prison, 1% of the population works at walmart? I'm seeing a missed oportunity here.

Seriously, this is fantastic.
posted by Hactar at 1:09 PM on November 6, 2010

The number of females in prison in Oklahoma is 131 per 100,000 almost double than the national average. The percentage of female prisoners with children is high. We are punishing the children along with the mothers.
posted by francesca too at 2:00 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

One of the few possible good outcomes of this economic crisis would be if we were to recognize that this pace of incarceration is unaffordable—and actually do something about it. We seem not to care that it's inhumane; however, if we recognize that we can't afford it, maybe we will stop.
posted by Maias at 2:14 PM on November 6, 2010

That's the optimistic view Maias. I'd like to share it, but my money is on "incarceration is unaffordable. This is unacceptable. Let's privatize the system and make it profitable instead."
posted by stagewhisper at 10:15 PM on November 6, 2010

From mefi's own (me).

Thanks for the kind words y'all; we've been doing background work for this site for a quite while and are very happy to see it starting to get off the ground. We've been recruiting writers through contacts with a wide array of prisoner support groups, including prison books programs, prison legal news, queer prisoner support, and others. We've been supplying organizations with postcards and copy that they can include in their mailings, and have gotten a lot of contacts through word of mouth. If you know someone who might be interested in writing, feel free to tell them about us (or tell us about them -- we'll send an info packet).

The next best way you can help is to leave comments. We mail the comments back; it's a fantastic way to help the authors feel heard.

Feel free to be in touch:
posted by yourcelf at 10:51 PM on November 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

Really interesting to read, thanks.
posted by maiamaia at 9:26 AM on November 8, 2010

« Older Can we stop making tasers look and operate like...   |   Artiste hors-pair, celui qui s’est fait connaitre... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments