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As most of you probably know, prisoners are very much a part of the zine scene, as much, if not more, by desperation and necessity, than by choice.

I often get submissions of art, poetry, essays, etc., and requests to typeset and print zines, chapbooks, etc. I wish I had more time to do this, but in all practicality, I don't, and therefore I can't promise them anything.

I know that Christopher Robin of Zen Baby helps out prisoner's a lot, and Randy Robbin's of Narcolepsy Press Review has contributed more than his share in the effort, but I'm sure they've got their limits of time and financial resources, and I've read Randy's had some serious health problems.

I recently stumbled upon a service called Shot Caller Press, 8316 N. Lombard St.Portland, Oregon, www.ShotCallerPress.com, a publisher of prisoner art and poetry. I'm glad they have a physical address I can pass on to prisoners in my mail to them, but I wasn't able to learn much about them from their website (I don't absorb info from the Net very well). Are they legit?

A prisoner also gave me a thick digest prison resource zine called Words Break Bars, but I believe it was printed in 2002, so how good most or all of the many addresses they provided are may be a bit doubtful. I looked it up on Zinewiki, but didn't find it.

So, my main point and question:

What I feel would be very valuable to the disorganized prisoner support scene is some kind of Factsheet 5/Global Mail/APA for prisoners, filled with their art, poetry, rants, LOCs, etc., etc., and PHYSICAL ADDRESSES for free zines, pen pals, prison social services, etc.

I've recently read on this forum that scanning zines is more time consuming and difficult than I thought it was, but this zine could be assembled, scanned and archived on the Net, and it's administration could be web-based, but with the fact in mind that the prisoners participating HAD to have a way of communicating via PHYSICAL/USPS mail. (Several "prisoner support" websites/forums are entirely web-based with no means of feedback for prisoners, except via a third party)

Now, I would not be a candidate for the scanning, website construction and maintenance, etc. I do not have the aptitude and skill for any of that. But I may be able to help financially and contribute, with others, in small ways. Many hands could make light work.

Maybe there's already one, or more. of some zine or network like this in existence that I'm not aware of. If so, by all means let me know. But I'm sure this would be a big step forward in making things easier for prisoners who want to learn, and hey, just have a little fun, through zines.

Any info or ideas would be appreciated.


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Zines by and for prisoners are always great :)

I just wanted to note that there is a project out there that sounds similar to yours: Victoria Law edits a zine called Tenacious, which collects art and writings by women prisoners. Definitely worth checking out for inspiration: http://resistancebehindbars.org/node/19

*TRIGGER WARNING for discussing various nasty reasons people are imprisoned*

There's lots of reasons to send zines to prisoners. Allow me to go on a rant here...

I live in the U.S. As of 2010, there were over 2.2 million adult prisoners incarcerated here. This figure is not including the hundreds of thousands held in county jails, juvenile facilities, military facilities, immigrant detention centers, etc. So there are actually much, much more.

Now those over 2.2 million people aren't all just "rapeos." I would actually propose that a large majority of them don't even need to be in prison, paid for by taxpayer money. For instance, there are thousands of people incarcerated for petty drug charges. In 2004, 55% of federal prisoners and 21% of state prisoners were held for violation of drug laws, under the war on drugs. That year, 44,816 state & federal prisoners were held for marijuana charges. Again, this doesn't even include those in county jails. I personally believe safe recreational use should be allowed. I also believe that if someone has a serious substance abuse/addiction problem, that they should be receiving medical and mental health treatment, not prison time.

So there are plenty of other reasons people are in prison. There are some people imprisoned for sex work. Many women are imprisoned for killing their abusers. Some people are imprisoned for their activism and, some might argue, merely their political views, like the case of Eric McDavid who was entrapped by an FBI agent. There was even a case - and I can't seem to find her name right now, but the Jericho Movement did outreach on her behalf - where a woman was harassed by some men who threatened sexual assault, and was imprisoned for physically defending herself. There are also, obviously, many people in prison for being undocumented citizens, and many of them suffer verbal and sexual abuse in these oft ignored immigrant detention facilities. There's also a large number of people in prison who are uneducated and come from places of few economic opportunities, and have thus acted out by dealing illegal items or joining gangs or stealing and the like.

Often times, prisoners are held in one little place with no intervention whatsoever, then released into the same circumstances where they were before, leaving them to make repeat offenses (and there are many repeat offenders). I have worked with formerly incarcerated individuals and have heard the experience of corrections officers who say the "scare tactic" of prison doesn't reform anything. Thus, if the goal is to get these prisoners to a point where they are no longer a threat (if they were ever a threat) to themselves or society, then they need social services, health care, and education to get them there. We need broader systemic reforms.

I am not naive enough to say there are no violent, remorseless people out there who may beyond reform, but I would say from my experience in working in transitional programs, that there are a great many prisoners who can get out and never get in trouble again if they get the right assistance.

Something else to remember is that there are economic interests in keeping prisons operating and full. Even though violent crime has dropped, the prison population keeps exploding. For one, prisoners provide cheap, practically slave labor. Many major corporations rely on prison labor for their goods; Victoria's Secret, Starbucks, Boeing... All of these use prison labor, and can pay prisoners literally pennies per hour. Large farms often use prison labor as well. This practice actually blossomed from the abolition of slavery. After slavery was abolished, this left many businesses without their free labor. However, the Black Codes were passed, which produced steeper penalties and prison sentences for offenders based on the color of their skin. These prisoners then were used for labor, and some were given longer sentences for unexplained "bad behavior" when businesses wanted to hold on to their labor. There is also a whole industry that makes furniture, clothing, and other materials for prisons that relies on a continued stream of prisoners.

For more info, check out books like "Resistance Behind Bars" by Victoria Law or "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness" by Michelle Alexander. Or simply search online for the phrase "prison-industrial complex" and you'll get a ton of hits :)

But zines can help prisoners who struggle to find hope, support, understanding, power in their own voice and experiences, etc. etc.




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