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Miami inmates are what becomes of the chicken before I fry it up. Our imaginings about who and why we incarcerate continue to evolve, shaped by the stories we hear and the experiences and perspectives we come to know. Literacy practices figure at the center of how we learn from, partner with, and work within prisons, and this special issue of Reflections examines—and exhibits—writing practices and communities formed in and around prisons. Those of us who work and write within carceral spaces are eager to share those stories as one tactic for broadening discourse about and educational opportunities for people inside.

As scholars and practitioners in prison literacy and writing—Wendy with the Florida-based Exchange for Change prison writing program and Tobi with the Colorado-based SpeakOut! The issue brought together voices of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated writers, prison teachers, researchers, and community members. Our call for writing elicited an exciting and wide-ranging set of proposals from both outside and inside carceral spaces.


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The resulting special issue offers a representative range of theoretical, methodological, and narrative essays that report on and grapple with literacy practices and writing moments inside U. The issue is organized into three sections: theorizing prison writing, critical collaborations, and recognizing prison histories, identities, and abolitionist possibilities.

The first section—theorizing prison writing—grapples with the complexity of writing and representation work behind bars.

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In , Exchange for Change writers collaborated with the O Miami Poetry Festival and artist Julia Weist to intervene in online search platforms and change the discourse around mass incarceration and incarcerated people. The result? Lallamont in the epigraph above. Many of the writers we have encountered in eighteen years of facilitating writing workshops in jail and prison stay with us.

Meet America's Most Infamous Women Prisoners (Female Prison Documentary) - Real Stories

They linger in our minds as we move through the other parts of our days and lives. Their words of loss echo as we help our children with homework, praise their artwork, and snap photos with the abandon of a person not behind bars.

The Story Within Us

Kya remains particularly vivid. In one workshop, she wrote six-word memoirs with such rigor and speed that we all paused to watch. She published pages of poems in our journal across many weeks of workshops before she was released. Later, she came nervously to talk with a university capstone class, an event that both celebrated her writing acumen and illuminated the challenge of bridging positions of privilege, identity, and representation. So far, six companies have been approved by the state to sell books, and the first five announced offer one dictionary, one thesaurus, 21 puzzle books, 11 how-to books, 14 religious books, 24 coloring books and five romance novels.

The next Mr. Betts or Ms.

Prisons in Popular Culture - Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology

Jones will be unlikely to find inspiration in a coloring book. There have long been policies in place to keep people in prison from reading materials that could encourage them to protest or escape, thereby threatening the general security of the prison. That makes sense, in theory.

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New York, for example, has long restricted books with maps as well as those with nudity. Yet a nudity ban means that art history, figure drawing and anatomy books are also banned. She estimates they send about packages a month.


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The new ban forces New York families to purchase books for their loved ones, while organizations like Books Through Bars provide them free. This new policy may seem inexplicable.

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Amazingly, according to Ms. Thompson, incarcerated people in Alabama and Texas have recently been denied her book. But denying people the right to read, especially books that reflect their own lives, goes deeper than politics.