May 31, 2004  ·  Lessig

A journalist friend of mine has been writing about prisons. She has discovered in the process an extraordinary wealth of amazing and reflective writing by prisoners. I’d like (and they’ve agreed) to turn some of this writing into a blog, since the prison won’t permit them to publish the writings in the prison paper.

Is anyone game to help? I’d send you (by snail or fax) copies of the essays; you’d be a contributor to the blog by posting what was written, and adding comments of your own. I’d only need a couple volunteers to make this possible. I’m happy to host the site and pay for the MT interface (yes, I’m HAPPY to pay for MT).

Email me at this disposable email address by June 7 if you’re willing to help.

UPDATE: Ok, my inbox is flooded with great volunteers. Thanks to everyone who did volunteer. More here when we get it going.

  • Chris Yu

    Wouldn’t your plan of having a single author post all of the prisoner’s writing be a way of circumventing the SixApart licensing agreement? Having more than 20 authors costs an unspecified amount (presumably) above $599 according to http://secure.sixapart.com/ so unless you’re going to be limiting the speech to 20 prisoners, I’d start saving your money.

    While I know you can probably get out of the license fees through your friends who have an interest in the company, it seems strange that your very noble post to share the stories of prisoners might be limited by ‘bad code.’

  • w1Lk3s

    Just curious…would this be under the Creative Commons license?

  • http://www.bbcity.co.uk/user/Tom Tom Morris

    Or you could not use Movable Type, and not have such a problem.

  • http://demandmedia.net/ akb

    I’d suggest getting in touch with a group that does organizing around prisons such as Critical Resistance. Working with them, with their constituency of former prisoners and families of prisoners, would probably help get the work seen by more than just the blogerati. Maybe they could even help get a former prisoner trained in how to use blogging tools, that would be empowering.

  • Pete

    Instead of paying for the MT license you could use WordPress which is open-source and supports multiple authors.

  • http://totheteeth.blogspot.com Anjali

    Amazing idea. This would be powerful. Showing that prisoners are people too with thoughts can only be progress. Ditto on the comment about connecting with prison reform orgs.

    In related news, sorry if you’ve already seen this, but Bob Herbert has a piece in today’s NYTimes, that talks about prisoners’ lack of rights to compensation in the U.S. for abuse:

    The Prison Litigation Reform Act, designed in part to limit “frivolous” lawsuits by inmates, was passed by Congress and signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1996. It specifically prohibits the awarding of financial compensation to prisoners “for mental or emotional injury while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury.” …

    Said Mr. Bright: “Today we are talking about compensating
    prisoners in Iraq for degrading treatment, as of course we should. But we do not allow compensation for prisoners in the United States who suffer the same kind of degradation and humiliation.”

    The message with regard to the treatment of prisoners in
    the U.S. has been clear for years: Treat them any way you’d like. They’re just animals.

  • Alex

    So Lessig wants to help prisoners as much as he wants to help his students. I think he should give up his day job, join Critical Resistance, and fade away.

  • http://lsn Justin

    why support and use outdated blogware when there are many better options? MT is just so darn clunky compared to the other options (Geeklog, wordpress, Drupal, etc……). Why limit yourself?

  • http://www.blogeasy.com James

    You might also check out BlogEasy for online blogging. It supports simple blogs now but I heard they are upgrading their service next month to include support for many new features including multiple authors and syndication.

  • bill ryan

    Larry, thanks so much for providing an opportunity for persons in Illinois prison to have their writings posted on your blog. There are pratically no positive programs in Illinois maximum prisons as inmates sit in a two or three person tiny cell 22 hours a day. Yet so many of them continue to struggle to rehabilitate themselves and be positive. Many of their writings speak to this struggle.

    I am sending an announcement about Stateville Speaks, an inmate newspaper. It is very important this newspaper continues since it is the only positive program in Stateville prison today.

    ANNOUNCEMENT OF PRISON NEWSPAPER, STATEVILLE SPEAKS

    Stateville Speaks is a quarterly newspaper written by inmates at the
    maximum security prison Stateville, located forty miles outside Chicago.
    The first edition (March 2004) had to be published outside the prison,
    because the Illinois Department of Corrections denied a proposal for the
    in-house newspaper. The DOC also refused to allow the first edition of
    Stateville Speaks inside the prison, prompting a first-amendment
    lawsuit, which remains in process.

    Stateville Speaks features essays, poems, legal advice, healthcare news,
    and artwork. The newspaper provides inmates with a much needed creative
    focus and an opportunity to strengthen reading and writing skills. The
    editor, Renaldo Hudson, has invited the staff at Stateville to
    contribute to the next issue in hopes of beginning a dialogue of mutual
    benefit to everyone in the prison.

    The first edition was published entirely with private donations. In
    order to continue the publication, we will need a strong subscription
    base. I urge you to support this important literacy effort, which has
    energized and given hope to many of the men living in Stateville.

    Introductory rate of $20.00 for four issues, beginning September 2004 (1
    year).
    Send checks or money order to Bill Ryan, 2237 Sunnyside Ave.,
    Westchester, IL 60154. Feel free to call with questions, 708.531.9923.

    Bill Ryan

    INBOX: Email