His article was peppered with at least a half a dozen facts he had gleaned from AMF. He thanked me for helping him write the article by providing him with a steady diet of hard facts which he could incorporate into his writing.
This is exactly what I had in mind when I started the AMF column. Having taken a college course in journalism last year, it occurred to me that there are two things that distinguish good non-fiction journalism from professional journalism: facts and quotes. As editor of PLN over the years, I have read hundreds of article submissions from imprisoned writers. Many of them are written quite well, but lack the vital background information. I have written letters wherein I tell the writer that the article is well written but lacks hard factual data to back up the points he/she is trying to get across. As an imprisoned writer myself, I know how difficult it is to do research from behind the walls. Good solid facts can be hard to come by.
That's why I continue to write the AMF column each month. Don't be shy about "stealing" these facts and using them in your own writing; heck, where do you think I got all of the AMF items myself? I encourage you to save your back issues of PLN. Use them as a resource for your own writing, whether you are writing legal briefs, letters, grievances, letters to the editor, articles or a book. Whatever you say, back it up with the facts. It'll make you a more effective writer and your material will have a greater chance of catching an editor's eye.
Speaking of writing a book, PLN has closed a book deal with Common Courage Press for a 250-300 page compilation of the best writing from PLN over the last several years. We have nearly finished the manuscript, but will be working on the finishing touches (and inserting more up-to-date information) until some time this summer. The book will not actually hit the book stores until early next year. We hope the income it generates will be a good fundraiser for PLN. You'll hear much more about this book in the coming year.
If you want to check out the best prison book currently available, get your hands on a copy of "Criminal Injustice: Confronting the Prison Crisis" edited by PLN subscriber and prison rights activist Eli Rosenblatt. In his preface, Eli captures the essence of the "criminal injustice" problem and puts forth a possible solution: "The changes will be forced upon the system by prisoners organizing and the collective action of an angry, educated populace."
The book is divided into six sections: an Overview, Conditions for Resistance, Women in Prison, The Death Penalty is Dead Wrong, Political Imprisonment in the U.S., and the Nationwide Lockdown. I have yet to read this book, but have heard nothing but enthusiastic praise from those who have. I suggest you do what I'm doing: Find somebody on the outside who wants to help out by sending you something. Ask 'em for a copy of Eli's book. A friend of mine is ordering me one from: South End Press; 116 Boltolph Street; Boston MA 02115. The book is 400 pages, ISBN 0-89608-539-2, $18.00 plus $3.00 S&H.
That's all for this month. As always, remember that PLN is reader-supported so please keep those donations and subscription renewals coming. Enjoy this issue of PLN and pass it along to a comrade when you're done with it. Of course, ask for it back so you can save your back issues. You can let them keep the subscription card insert. Let them know what they have to do to get a year's worth of PLN for their very own.
As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.
Already a subscriber? Login