What we accomplished through the year and a look at what’s to come

There’s no doubt that 2020 has been an unprecedented year, bringing along with it new challenges. However, Prisoner Express has made it a concerted effort to continue its programs to provide incarcerated individuals with education and connection.

New Programs

During the most recent cycle, five new programs have been introduced with the help of our volunteers, including philosophy, mental health, screenwriting, and computer science informational programs.

Take a look at what these programs look like by clicking the links below!

Philosophy

Mental Health

Screenwriting

Computer Science

An exciting new program also includes a chapbook club made possible by author Elizabeth Wolf, who has donated 300 copies of her poetry chapbook Did You Know. A chapbook is a book of poems that relate to a central theme and create a story. This new book club encourages inmates to write a poetry chapbook of their own by utilizing educational packets as well as a copy of the book as an example. Take a look at the packet here!

Some Achievements

In exciting news, art created by the inmates in the Art Knows program were put on display in the MoMA as part of a major exhibition of prison art, “Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” earlier this year, from April 5 through August 25. If you’d like to learn more about this exhibition, click here.

Self-portrait of Billy Sell, an inmate and participant of the California Hunger Strike against solitary confinement, whose work is displayed as part of the exhibition. He died by suicide in 2012.

Many of our familiar programs have also been able to continue, including the poetry anthology, journal project, chess, meditation, and expedited books programs, all of which hundreds of inmates have been able to continue to participate in.

Moreover, we successfully distributed our two yearly newsletters. If you’d like to read them yourself, click below!

Summer

Winter

Some Challenges

Of course, the pandemic has created new challenges that Prison Express has been able to overcome.

The pandemic has particularly made it a challenge for in person volunteers to participate in the journal project, in which our volunteers write to incarcerated individuals in response to their journal entries. However, a system is in the works to make it easier for people to respond to inmates online, and should be out in the coming months. 

The expedited books program has also been a challenge to uphold with the closing of school libraries, but Friends of the Library have been generous enough to partner with Prisoner Express to make it possible for inmates to continue receiving personalized book packages. Learn more about Friends of the Library and their generous partnership with Prisoner Express here!

A Peek at 2021

In the coming year, we hope to continue our old and new programs, as well as run a new cycle of the yearlong Build a Book and Spanish programs.

We are also developing new and easier ways for the general public to write to inmates in response to their journal entries online. This should help with the decrease in volunteers, and keep up the journal program for the inmates.

Though the pandemic has presented new challenges, Prisoner Express has been able to work through these problems to ensure a successful 2020 year, and we look forward to the year to come!