AMERICAN PRISON NEWSPAPERS, 1800 – 2020:
VOICES FROM THE INSIDE
$560,800 Funding Goal
Percentage Funded: 50%
Number of Backers (including Diversity & Dissent funding libraries): 60
Funding Start Date: March 2020
Fund Type: One-Time, with support from the Diversity & Dissent Fund
Academic and public libraries provide the funding needed to cover all costs associated with publishing this important collection. Seed funding for American Prison Newspapers has been provided by members of the Diversity & Dissent Digitization Fund. Libraries may support this project by contributing to the Diversity & Dissent Fund or by making a one-time contribution to the American Prison Press program. View the organizations and libraries that have committed funds to this project here.
MAKE A FUNDING COMMITMENT
Libraries that provide the financial resources needed to cover the costs of the project receive valuable benefits in return, including campus-wide access to the collection as it is built. Click here to see a complete list of benefits. Contribution rates are determined by library type. See the table in the Funding Tiers section below to determine your institution’s contribution level.
Please contact Peggy Glahn to make a funding commitment.
America incarcerates more people than any other nation. As a result, the stark realities of jails and prisons have a far-reaching impact on society. The experience of imprisonment is poorly understood by most Americans who are untouched by the penal system. This open access digital collection of newspapers produced by citizens who have been incarcerated will help students and readers learn about the prison experience through the voices of those who have lived it.
Incarcerated journalists, then and now, walk a tightrope between opposing expectations. Prison administrations wants to be presented in a flattering light, or at least in a manner that avoids the spotlight. Editors, journalists and incarcerated authors want their publications to reflect their life behind bars – the news, issues and commentary that are important to them. Balancing, what at times are opposing goals in an authoritarian environment, involves to some extent explaining each side to the other.
The subject of prison reform and prisoner rights is receiving more attention than it has in decades, this collection seeks to inform the conversation by focusing on American prisons and the lives of the people inside them.
The collection is hosted on the Reveal Digital platform, which will provide controlled access to funding libraries until fundraising is complete, at which time the collection will become freely available. The platform provides page image-based access with full-text searching, hit-term highlighting and browsing by title and issue.
Click here to download the target title list.
The collection begins with two of the first prison publications, Forlorn Hope and Supporter, both published by inmates in debtor’s prisons in New York and Philadelphia in 1800. But it wasn’t until the late nineteenth-century when the reformatory movement spurred the development of the prison press. State and federal prisons soon followed and by 1935, roughly 50% of the state and federal penal institutions had an active prisoner press. The Prison Mirror, published monthly by and for the men of the Minnesota Stillwater Correctional Facility, was founded in 1887 and is the oldest continuously published prison newspaper in the United States. Today, only a handful of newspapers remain in print, as a result of shifting philosophies and funding cuts.
Circulation of prison newspapers extended well beyond the prison walls. The Menard Times, published by incarcerated people at the Illinois State Penitentiary, had a readership of 2,000 inside the prison and distributed another 19,000 copies outside the prison.
Over 350 publications have been identified and targeted for the collection, including: the Angola Argus, Folsom Observer, San Quentin News, and the Sing Sing Bulletin. These newspapers will be digitized and brought together for the first time into an aggregated collection.
View a sample issue of What’s Happening on the Yard?? from the Arizona State Prison provided by the Arizona State Library.
PROJECT ADVISORY BOARD
Reveal Digital is developing the American Prison Newspapers collection with the help of an advisory board representing diverse perspectives from communities impacted by the content. We are grateful for the time and counsel provided by:
- Dan Berger, Associate Professor and Director of the Washington Prison History Project, University of Washington at Bothell
- Ellen Belcher, Special Collections Librarian, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
- William Drummond, Professor of Journalism, University of California, Berkeley and adviser to the San Quentin News
- Marianne Fisher-Giorlando, Researcher for The Angolite, retired professor of Criminal Justice at Grambling State University
- Doran Larson, Professor of Literature, Hamilton College and Director of the American Prison Writing Archive
- Kerry Myers, former editor of The Angolite
- Ana Noriega, Assistant Director of Collections Management, Colby College
- Robert Pollock, Program Manager, PEN America’s Prison Writing Program
The following libraries have agreed to provide source material for scanning. We expect to add many more libraries and archives to this list over the course of the project.
* Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records
* Bucknell University
* Connecticut State Library
* Indiana State Library
* University of Arkansas
* University of Illinois
* University of Oregon
* University of Washington
* University of Wyoming
* Whitman College
* Mule Creek Post, CA; D. Babbs, editor
|ACADEMIC (Based on Carnegie Classification)|
|2 yr colleges and Special Colleges||$2,400|
|Bachelors and Other Masters (M2 + M3)||$3,600|
|Large Masters and Other Doctorate (M1 + R3)||$4,800|
|Doctoral: Higher Research (R2)||$7,200|
|Doctoral: Highest Research (R1)||$9,600|
|PUBLIC (Pop. Served)|
|Less than 50,000||$600|
|More than 1,000,000||$7,200|
BENEFITS TO FUNDING LIBRARIES
- Exclusive access to the collection as it is being built. Access is controlled by IP address authentication
- MARC Records will be provided for all titles when the project is complete
- Bi-annual Usage Reports (July and January)
- Unlimited text downloads for text and data mining purposes at no cost
- Public recognition by listing your library’s name on our website
Work on the project began in March 2020 and is expected to continue through December 2021.
- Original images are stored as uncompressed 300 dpi 24-bit color TIFF images, conforming to the TIFF 6.0 specification
- Images are cropped to the page edge
- Derivative images are 300 dpi JPEGs, compressed 20% for online delivery
- Issue and page level metadata is preserved in the METS/ALTO format with page-level OCR text
- Reveal Digital collections are hosted on the Verdian platform, which complies with globally accepted accessibility standards. Veridian’s VPAT may be downloaded here.