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“Jail Mail:” United Kingdom’s Newest Prison System Newspaper

Prisoners in United Kingdom (UK) correctional facilities have yet another newspaper to help pass the time.  “Jail Mail” is the third national newspaper in the British prison system, along with “Inside Time,” and “Converse,” and will have a print run of approximately 20,000 copies.  The newspaper represents the newest opportunity for detainees to hone their journalistic skills while providing news and human interest stories to their 85,625 peers in the country’s prison system.

Launched by a Nottingham, England attorney, solicitor Stephen Luke, the newspaper, according to its founder, “(is) a paper for prisoners to provide information and help them through their sentence.”  One of the contributors is Ross Bell, serving a sentence for tax fraud, who wrote about his newest recipe, prepared in the prison kitchen at HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) Mount.

The newspaper also includes a prison fiction-reading program, as well as career and post-release employment advice.  Most revenue is generated by ads from attorneys seeking new business from prisoners.

The United Kingdom has a rich heritage of prisoners who have written for prison newspapers.  “Inside Time,” was started by UK prisoner advocate Lord Longford in 1990, as an outlet for prisoners venting about the frustration and concerns of the confine.  It boasts a circulation of 60,000.  It became popular with prisoners when the governor of HMP Lincoln tried to ban its distribution.  The publication has become a voice for improvement of prison conditions, and its web site receives 400,000 visitors a month.

“Converse” is published by 20-year prison veteran Mark Leech, who spent time in 62 jails prior to his release, and who now focuses his energy on what he calls “serious news.”  That publication reaches approximately 64,000 readers. It publishes a 1,200 page prison handbook, maintains a jail news website (, and states that it is “opening up the closed world of prisons.”  With three strong publications providing information and insight to the confined, that closed world has become just a little more open, to not only prisoners, but the general public.



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