From Attica Prisoners To Harvard Law Students: A Message From Behind The Wall

By: John J. Lennon The last great book I read made me cry and grind my teeth and pace my cell. It was written by a Harvard Law School graduate. It was Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. With the best education in America, Mr. Stevenson chose to “get close to,” defend and ultimately save the lives of people on death row. [...]

I Joined Facebook From Prison!

By: Jeremy Farler, Contributing Writer As I stared at the cell phone screen prompting me to register and start to build my own Facebook page, what was shining back at me was the light of opportunity. I had already done the impossible. Even I couldn't believe how quickly I was able to talk her into bringing in a cellphone. But [...]

The Gross Things Prisoners Do When The Water Is Shut Off

By: Daniel H. Harris, Contributing Writer Eastham is an old prison with a slowly decaying network of pipes to provide water and remove sewage. For one reason or another we are without running water every few months. In the free world this would only be inconvenient. In a prison, well, read on. They do rolling flushes of each line [cell block [...]

A Prison Program Changed My Life

By: Carrie Ames, Contributing Writer Somewhere in the purgatory between jail and prison I was convinced that prison would be a land of opportunity.  I was told of advanced education, treatment, activities — glorified misperceptions by people who had never been to prison, whose closest experiences were TV shows, fictional books and the misleading DOC [Department of Corrections] websites. After [...]

Former Cop, Now Inmate, Says Mentally Ill In Prison Are Abused

By: Edwin Garcia, Contributing Writer It is no secret that the state has used the Prison system as a dumping ground for the mentally ill. Common sense would lead an observer to conclude that an environment as degenerative as prison is not the best location to place a person who is suffering from mental illness. Yet the people who run our [...]

A Prisoner’s Case for Rehabilitation in Prisons

By: Matthew Leachman, Contributing Writer Most of us will get out. Some will stay in prison for only a few months; others will stay for a few years, but only a small percentage will die behind prison walls without ever again walking free. Most of us will get out, which is why rehabilitation is a goal that every rational person [...]

I Taught Myself Yoga In Prison – And It Changed My Life

By: Daniel Harris, Contributing Writer Many are intimidated by the expensive trappings of yoga. When you take away all the specialty items, forget the retreats to faraway places, and make do where you are with what  you have, yoga comes alive. Yoga's roots were in a hovel; it has only recently taken to life in palaces. I began my yoga [...]

How A Dogs in Prison Program Changed My Life

By: Robert Molloy, Contributing Writer I am often amused by the prison stereotypes I run across in the media. We are all big, buff, tattooed beasts who spend our days pumping iron, slugging the boxing-bag, and intimidating the other stereotypes: weak, effeminate youngsters, barely-bearded. While there are a few who fit those molds, the reality – at least in the [...]

Prison Gangs: Here’s Why We Fight

By: Justin Hightower, Contributing Writer 2010 was mid-roar. Springtime in Greenhaven [Correctional Facility] was marked by an uptick in gang violence. The night of June 10th could have been a case study. Under a sky so blue not a contrail drifted, iron weights rose and fell above the freshly cutgrass. On the court, facedown in an ever-blossoming pool of blood, [...]

The Great Philosophers Changed My Life In Prison

By: Larry Bratt, Contributing Writer In Voltaire’s A Philosophical Dictionary, there’s the question, “Can a person change his or her character?” Voltaire’s suggestion that “we can improve, we can smooth down, we can hide what nature has placed in us. But we put nothing there ourselves.” Discussions with fellow inmates about this went back and forth, as a few men [...]

When You Grow Up In Prison, Did Your Life Ever Really Begin?

By: Chris Dankovich, Contributing Writer Sometimes, after my roommate has gone to sleep (or has left the room, or when no one is looking), I grab my pillow and hold it tightly, pressing my face against it. I fall asleep with my arm wrapped around it, or with it pressing against my back, pretending that I'm not alone – or at least [...]

Take A Look Inside Prison’s Underground Economy

By: Michael Winsett, Contributing Writer When it comes to the underground economy in prison, you have to live inside here to understand it. For example, inmates use “postage stamps” as poker chips. At the end of the night, you can keep the postage stamps or cash out the postage stamps for other items. Then there’s those inmates who run “inmate [...]

After 20 Years of Solitary in A Supermax Prison — They Send Me To THIS Place?

By: Mustafa Zulu, Contributing Writer For the past two decades, up until April 27, 2015, I was living in solitary confinement at the only federal Supermax prison in America, ADX Florence in Colorado. I was housed and handled under the high-max custody level. No less than three guards had to escort me anywhere I went (it's called a three-man hold). On [...]

The Alternatives To Violence Project Changed My Life Forever

By: Michael Winsett, Contributing Writer One day I looked into the activity room in the unit where I live and I saw inmates participating in some kind of class.  First thing I thought was that it was just “another” prison program, won’t do me any good to sign up for it. There were three females and one male from outside [...]

I Spent 20 Years In Solitary in America’s Worst Prison — Then One Day, It Was Suddenly Over

By: Mustafa Zulu, Contributing Writer It was 4:00 in the morning, just one month shy of my 39th birthday. I was sound asleep in my prison cell. A guard and a property officer beamed a flashlight in my face and started banging on the bars to wake me up. " Hey, Zulu! Turn on your light and step up to [...]

10 Tips For Surviving Long Term Solitary Confinement

By: Mustafa Zulu, Contributing Writer Editors Note:  Mustafa Zulu spent 20 years in solitary confinement in the harshest Federal Prison in America:  ADX Florence in Colorado.  One day, he was told he was moving to a STATE prison in North Carolina. 1) STRESS MANAGEMENT: Stress kills. Solitary confinement units are pressure cookers, and extreme pressure busts pipes without relief valves. [...]

This Was Not The Boob Job I Was Looking For…

By: Lorie Longoria, Contributing Writer I always wanted a boob job. In all my years as a stripper, drug addict and a prostitute, my first big dream was to have my breasts done and really make some money. I mean that’s what life is about, big boobs, bras, booze, drugs, money and men (or women, if that’s your preference) right? It’s ironic [...]

Institutionalized Racism in Prison

By: Arthur Longworth, Contributing Writer In prison, it's not necessary for you to be a racist in order for you to act like one, to live within the confines of a strict racial divide, to discriminate. These are things you have to do in here, because the race barriers are institutionalized, embedded so deeply into the way the prison is managed, [...]

What Is It Like To Get Life in Prison?

By: Leonard Andre Scovens, Jr., Contributing Writer I spent the first few years of my natural life sentence muttering incoherently to myself and chewing my fingernails to bleeding nubs while I contemplated the most painless methods of suicide for American prisoners. How’s a 23-year old kid supposed to process having to spend the rest of his life in a cage? [...]

I Was A Witness To Murder At Age 10

By: Paul Anthony Brown, Contributing Writer Courtesy of Paul Brown In the ghetto, there’s lots of improvisation. As young boys, we were very active and had loads of energy. We liked to play baseball, but lacked the equipment. No problem. For a bat, we used a broken broom handle. An old fuzzy lime green tennis ball served as [...]

Here’s How The Escaped NY Convicts Could’ve Manipulated Joyce Mitchell

By: Jeremy Farler, Contributing Writer “Man, this shit is loose up there. One of these bitches is gonna go, but I think it might have to be a white guy.” I can still remember my friend Drew’s face when he said those words to me, an excited, almost giddy expression that rarely graces the face of any incarcerated prisoner. Drew was [...]

I’m A Hardcore Criminal Who’s Probably Better Off In Prison

By: Daniel Harris, Contributing Writer If marijuana is a gateway drug, as some suppose, then the laws that make it illegal are the keys to the gate... and it's a prison gate. Everyone that smokes a joint, even future presidents, break the law.  For some, it's a first step on a slippery slope. Some of us never get off. Once you [...]

A Prisoner Speaks Out: Mentally Ill Prisoners Are Abused In Texas

By: Fabian Campos, Contributing Writer In one sense, prisoners with mental disabilities have the same needs as everybody else. But in a crucial sense, our situation is dramatically different.  Let me tell you about it. In Texas, they put the MH/MR [mental health/mental retardation] inmates in the Skyview Unit, the Bill Clements Unit, and the Monford Unit. I am in [...]

Gang Life: One Crazy-Ass Night of Murder, Drugs, AK47s, and more…

By: Carlos Mendoz, Contributing Writer I was in my car waiting on King X [a high-level NY gang leader, not his real name] to call me with the address for me to go to with the money. While I was waiting, one of my men called to tell me the work is “low” and that I would need to send [...]

Remember Amy Preasmyer? She Writes Us From Solitary

By: Amy Preasmyer, Contributing Writer I am once again faced with the abusive conditions in which Ad-Seg [Administrative Segregation, a form of solitary] has a legacy. It’s a place where protocols are swept under the rug and CDCR’s [California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation] performances are clearly inhumane and ineffective, evidenced by the increase in serious rule violation reports (115s). Don’t get [...]

People Love Money, But Have You Ever Worshiped A Dime?

By: Jason Cooper, Contributing Writer My cellmate, Travieso, often stared and scuffled the dirt of the prison's yard looking for a dropped morphine or twist of speed. And while rarely successful, those few finds and their resultant "highs" made the countless hours of bug-eyed shuffling worth it to him. One blistering summer day with sweat dripping down the pentagram tattooed [...]

Bonding In A Native American Sweat Lodge — in Prison!?

By: Mustafa Zulu, Contributing Writer Mustafa, the author (L) and "Looking Back" (R) in front of a prison backdrop. "Looking Back" is the name of my Native American comrade I met when I first arrived to North Dakota state penitentiary a few months ago. He's about 5'8, bronze complexion, with a traditional Indian ponytail-braid hanging down to his [...]

Best Prison Slang Words You (Hopefully Won’t) Need To Know

Can you translate this?   I have the keys for my Car but my Road Dogs are disappearing on me. One was 5150 and Did the Dutch, one left on Back Door Parole, one is a BB Filler on his way out. Two are in The Hole (one for Keistering a cell phone), one is jacked up on Brake Fluid (he's got L Whop), one's a J-Cat sent to the Ding Wing, one is a Dump Truck who caught the Ninja, one was picked up by a Meat Wagon after getting Molly [...]

The Day I Caught A Live Hawk

By: Daniel H. Harris, Contributing Writer Like many others who find themselves locked in a cage with no way out, he too had a breaking point. The day we met, he reached it -- and bloody murder became acceptable. Prison had changed him. The sky was blue and cloudless that cold and frosty morning. It was a beautiful day to [...]

In Prison, Stamps Are The Currency That Binds Everybody

By: Kenneth Foster, Contributing Writer Prison is simply a reflection of the greater society. Whatever is happening on the street block is happening on the cell block. Capitalism is mimicked. There’s upper-class, middle-class and lower-class. Yes. There are prisoners with and there are prisoners without. There are prisoners that have a little something, but not a whole lot. And the stamp [...]

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