by Stephen Wilson
Because America’s prisons are its most opaque institutions, prisoners and their allies have always employed strategies of visibility to create awareness and understanding of who is being held captive and the conditions of their captivity. Print media – books, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, zines, pamphlets and visual art – has been a critical part of those various strategies of visibility.
Throughout the different eras of the American Prison Movement, but especially between the late '60s and early '80s, a number of platforms were created to connect prisoners to one another and their allies. Streams of prisoner-created content flowed from behind the walls and into the hands of allies who published and disseminated the materials. Across the prison movement, “prisoners used media to sustain connections with other prisoners and with sympathetic outsiders. As collective action became more difficult, writing and editing provided an opportunity to continue working collaboratively with others on both sides of the prison walls.”1
Print media kept prisoners connected to the social justice movements of the day and enabled them to be active participants. Allies created opportunities and platforms for prisoners to be heard. Prisoners’ voices were given spaces to articulate their issues ...