This week I went along to help out at a couple of sessions at Birmingham City University. It was a lot of fun. One of the teams of online journalism students are going to be doing a prison related project and I spoke to their editor about online sources. I thought it might be useful if I wrote a post that referenced them too.
There are a number of organisations who campaign for better conditions in prison. The main national ones are the Howard League for Penal Reform and the Prison Reform Trust. Frances Crook from the Howard League has a very good and informative blog.
There are quite a number of community based organisations that exist to help people both while they are inside prison and when they get out. St Giles Trust does a wide range of such work, including their recent Inside Out initiative which supports gay, bisexual and transgender men in prison. Clinks is an umbrella organisation which “supports the Voluntary and Community Sector working with offenders in England and Wales.”
Prisoners Families Voices is an often humourous blog written by and for people who have family members in prison. Inside Times is “designed to help prisoners their friends and family members and anyone working in a prison related industry or service.” and is widely read in prisons.
Prison Screw is a blog written by a serving prison officer who writes about various issues, including “the political motivation to privatise prisons”. In the lead up to the privatisation of HMP Birmingham there was the Birmingham Prison Officers’ Posterous but that seems to have fallen by the wayside now.
Amongst the prisoners and ex-prisoners who regularly blog there is John Hirst, who writes as Jailhouse Lawyer, often about prisoners rights and wider human rights issues. Erwin James writes his own blog and has been published elsewhere, notably in The Guardian where he is a regular columnist. He has also had two books published: A Life Inside and The Home Stretch
Prisoner Ben is the only example I know about of a serving prisoner writing a blog. He describes his blog like this:
The first blog by a serving British prisoner, looking stupidity and ignorance in the eye whilst attempting to inject some neurons into the criminological debate. Variously described as being “obviously extremely intelligent” (Michael Gove MP), “full of shit” (Mark Leach) and a “fully paid up member of the awkward squad” (Parole Board). Ben strives to generate debate around the moral and political nexus that is imprisonment.
We are often given very stereotypical views of prisons; communities which are closed to most of us. I’m grateful to the writers listed above for sharing their insights into this world and I hope that others find what they have to say interesting.