This article was first published by Reynolds Journalism Institute on Sept. 1, 2021.
Shortly after the pandemic began, the Prison Journalism Project (PJP), which I co-founded, started sharing essays and articles by incarcerated writers on COVID-19 experiences in prison. At the time, there was very little information available about the situation in prisons especially as they went on lockdown and halted visitations and programs.
With a single ad in Prison Legal News, a widely-read publication inside prisons, we were off. Submissions began pouring in from across the country, not just about coronavirus experiences but also about George Floyd’s murder, police brutality, LGBTQ experiences and other aspects of prison life.
By mid-summer, we realized two things. First, the world of 2.3 million incarcerated people held an array of potential stories, news and talent far beyond what we had imagined. There were endless possibilities for interesting community journalism work that pushed the boundaries of what has been done before. Secondly, we were doing this during a time of racial reckoning when our industry was confronting the lack of equity and inclusivity in our ranks, and many newsrooms were making a genuine effort to incorporate underrepresented voices in their coverage.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.