Content policy: PJP focuses on journalism and first person experiences that touch on prisons, incarceration, and the criminal justice system. We publish for a general audience, including those who may never have been touched by incarceration.
We accept work from the following categories. Submissions must be no longer than 1,200 words:
- Reported news, features and profiles.
- Personal essays and memoirs on something you experienced, observed or reported on.
- Op-eds containing arguments supported by evidence and research, or commentaries shedding light on a perspective based on your personal experience.
- Narrative poetry that shares a perspective or tells a true story related to incarceration.
- Reviews of books, music, TV shows, movies and other forms of culture that depict prison life/the criminal justice system.
- Illustrations, sketches, paintings, political cartoons and art that illustrates a perspective or scene of prison life.
We do not accept work that falls under the following categories:
- Sexually explicit, exploitative, pornographic or gratuitously violent (aim for PG-13 or R at the most). This includes pieces that objectify people.
- Contradicts known/proven facts (e.g., conspiracy theories about COVID-19).
- Re-victimizes individuals or justifies crimes (e.g., stories that justify rape or child pornography).
- Disrespects or makes unsubstantiated claims against an individual or a group based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, national origin or any other discriminatory characteristic.
- Seeks to re-litigate or rehash individual cases.
- Accuses a specific person, group or institution of wrongdoing without documented proof that can be examined by PJP editors.
- Unsubstantiated accusations, rants or charges without specific evidence.
- Sermonizes, preaches, proselytizes or evangelizes about a particular religion or beliefs.
- We accept work that describes how faith has influenced lives and perspectives, but it must tell a story or provide information in a way that will appeal to a general audience.
- Academic research papers.
- Legal documents.
- Submissions we cannot understand (including work we cannot read because of unclear handwriting).
Data: Data that are not attributed to a source will be removed from stories or replaced by similar data researched by PJP staff.
Editing: All submissions go through several rounds of edits, a treatment comparable to what a story would receive in a professional newsroom. This is to ensure stories meet our high standards of quality, accuracy and professionalism. For that reason, the published version of a story may appear substantially different from the original. Editors do not intend to change the meaning of a story or compromise a writer’s voice. Instead, we strive to make editorial decisions that both refine a writer’s work and serve our community of readers.
Fact-checking: Writers are responsible for checking the facts in their stories. Those facts include, but are not limited to:
- Spelling of names.
- Ages, job titles and any other descriptions of people mentioned.
- Full official name of institutions, organizations and companies.
- Location of places.
- Data, dimensions of rooms and any other numbers.
- Full formal titles of books, movies, newspapers, magazines and other publications.
- Allegations of unethical or illegal behavior that impugns someone’s character.
- Pivotal facts such as when events took place, number of people involved.
Human sources: Quotes and paraphrased assertions or observations by someone other than the writer must be attributed. The writer need not name the source, but should disclose enough information for the reader to assess the person’s trustworthiness, such as how they got the information. For example: an observation about the medical clinic by a cellmate you spoke to who works there as an orderly. In this case, a full name is desired, but initials, first names or a general description of their relationship to you (friend, cellmate etc.) is sufficient. Writers must seek permission from their sources to use what they said in a published story.
Research or additional reporting by PJP: PJP editors may add additional reporting or nut graphs to bolster the story. In such cases, PJP will add a note at the bottom: “Additional reporting by PJP.”
Safety and security of writers: PJP considers the safety of writers to be of paramount importance. Part of our decision to publish stories or seek official comment depends on our assessment of the risk that publication might pose to a writer, the writer’s level of risk tolerance and the writer’s understanding of the risks they may be taking on. We will not take away the agency of writers who are fully aware of the risks. But if there is any uncertainty, our default decision will be to not seek official comment. We encourage the writer to consider their own safety when submitting a story.
Use of racial slurs and other derogatory terms: PJP will not publish derogatory terms and racial slurs unless they are part of a quote and/or crucial to the understanding of the story or news event. When they are used, we will refer to such words with dashes except in the rarest of circumstances when a writer provides a compelling reason for spelling out the full word.
Verification of writers: PJP verifies the identity of writers on corrections department databases and other online searches. We may on occasion request another form of verification. Writers and anonymity: Journalism is more credible if the writer is identified, but incarcerated writers sometimes face a risk of reprisal. In such cases, PJP may withhold the writer’s identity or allow the use of initials, first name only or a pen name. PJP will disclose the fact that we have withheld the writer’s identity and will keep the identity confidential unless ordered by a court to disclose it. All writers must still provide their full names.