Prisoner Express Theme Essays

Prisoner Express establishes both a Word Theme and a Picture Theme for each month for prisoners to base their writing off of. These themes inspire both creative and personal writing, and PE members are encouraged to submit writing for each theme. If a prisoner writes a theme essay they receive a Theme Essay newsletter, a packet that consists of all the writing done that month on the subjects.

Volunteers read and type all the essays to create the compilation. Prisoners reading each other’s writing goes a long way in helping them understand their own experience. It also breaks down barriers between racial and ethnic groups who traditionally stay isolated in prison.

"The theme essays and journals are our expression of feeling that help rehabilitate our hearts and minds. Not just by us writing, but also in reading what others write. In seeing that others have the same issues and problems that we are personally are dealing with, means that we are not alone." - Brandon R., Inmate

It is clear through their writings that they share similar experiences and their common humanity shines through. Prisoners take great pride in seeing their essays published, and are motivated to continually improve their writing skills.

“The Real Prison” by Stephen LaValle

Prison is not the way people think it is. I found that only prisoners know the real prison. The real prison is loneliness that sinks its teeth into the souls of people and is emptiness that leaves a sick feeling inside. It is anxiety that pushes and swells and is uncertainty that smothers and stifles. It is frustration, futility, despair, and indifference.

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Childhood, by Anthony Mendoza

While growing up, I was raised by two wonderful, loving, and caring parents who taught me all the good and honest virtues in life. That is, the right from wrong, respect, honesty, kindness, and the best effort in everything.

I was one of four kids, the baby of the bunch. However…

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“My Earliest Memory” by Barry L. Taylor

At the age of two, my mother left her six children behind when she left my father. My very first memories were of waking in my crib with the light turned off and seeing the soft light of afternoon ooze through the window shades. I wanted my mother and cried out for her. She came into the room, told me to lay down and go to sleep, and left the room again.

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“First Date” by Michael Carpenter

I was an earlier bloomer. Unlike most little boys in the second grade, I did not think little girls had cooties. My attraction to the opposite sex began two years prior to kindergarten. During rest period, we would lay on these little bamboo mats, and I will never forget that funny feeling, those butterflies in the pit of my stomach when Melinda winked at me. I was hooked.

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“Adulthood”, by Williams Andrews

This essay is part of the “Telling Your Story” program in which prisoners recount profound memories from different stages in their lives. The audio version of this essay was read by a member of the Prisoner Express staff.

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Behind the Lace, by Daniel Montaño

Theme Prisoner Express establishes both a Word Theme and a Picture Theme for each month for prisoners to base their writing off of. This essay by Daniel Montaño was a response to our “Mask” theme essay packet in May 2017. Behind the Lace, by Daniel Montaño So this is me, a gangster, born and raised in the south…

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An ant, an apple and the prisoners

“I only saw what they let me [think I] see” – Lyrics by Bob Dylan In a high-security men’s prison art class where I am a volunteer art teacher, I show the students a crude drawing consisting of two simple lines; one line depicts a circle and the other is a short line extending from its…

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Browse Our Online Archive

The old website didn’t lend itself too well to regular publishing, so we switched to a blog-based format. However, there’s still some gems we haven’t had time to move over. Want to see some of the older prisoner express content? Check out our previous website – which is now In the coming months you’ll see…

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Frederick Mason “Coffee”

If you would like to respond to Frederick Mason, you may contact him at this address: Frederick Mason 55487-056 USP Tuscon PO Box 24550 Tuscon AZ 85734

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C.F. Villa, Excerpt from “California Elegy”

On July 1st, 2013, California inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison ignited a hunger strike to call attention to the inhumane conditions in the state’s Security Housing Units (SHUs). At the height of the hunger strike, July 8th 2013, two-thirds of the state’s 33 prisons and 4 out-of-state prisons participated: 30,000 inmates refused meals; 2,300…

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