For those incarcerated, the study of journalism can aid rehabilitation by providing tangible skills and a chance to increase understanding of prisoners’ experiences
John J. Lennon, also known as Inmate # 04A0823, sits on his bed, typing on a clear Swintec typewriter set on his lap. There is paper everywhere. Crumpled paper littering the floor, evidence of the struggle all writers face in the quest for perfection. On the walls, Lennon has taped papers outlining the key elements he needs to get across in his next feature—character, complication, resolutions, and theme. Stacks of magazines and books sit on the floor, serving both as inspiration and teacher for the prison journalist who seeks to tell the outside world what it truly means to be incarcerated in the United States.
“You are wildly irrelevant when you come to prison,” he says. “You’re nothing here and you’re nothing outside because you’ve become a memory of what you used to be. But when I’m writing and when I’m doing journalism, I take back the narrative.”
It’s a life and profession Lennon—who is serving 28 years to life for murder in Sing Sing Correctional Facility—had never anticipated when ...