American Prison Newspapers (Reveal Digital)


On March 24, 1800, Forlorn Hope was published within a prison in New York state, edited by an incarcerated person. In the intervening 200+ years, over 700 prison newspapers have been published from U.S. prisons in all fifty states. American Prison Newspapers will bring together hundreds of these periodicals from across the country into one collection that will represent penal institutions of all kinds, with special attention paid to women-only institutions.

With the United States incarcerating more individuals than any other nation–almost over 2 million as of 2023–these publications represent a vast dimension of media history. These publications depict and report on all manner of life within the walls of prisons, from the quotidian to the upsetting. Incarcerated journalists walk a tightrope between oversight by administration–even censorship–and seeking to report accurately on their experiences inside. Some publications were produced with the sanction of institutional authorities; others were produced underground.

Development of the collection began in July 2020, with new content added regularly. The American Prison Newspapers collection is made possible by libraries that have provided funding to cover the publishing costs, along with institutions and individuals that are opening their archives to provide the source material for digitization, and support from the Mellon Foundation, which supported the project through a generous $500,000 grant. We are grateful for the participation and support of all the funders and contributors that have made this work possible. Thanks to their contributions, the collection has been fully open access since July 2021.

Reveal Digital will undertake diligent efforts to protect the privacy of individuals depicted in the pages of the publications in this collection, and will take steps to notify the individuals and institutions that have contributed to the publications in this collection. If you are a writer, editor, or other contributor to a publication made available as part of American Prison Newspapers and encounter personal information of any kind that should be removed from view, please write to us to request its removal:

Full Text


Coverage To