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 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. Thanks to their contributions, the collection has been fully open access since July 2021.

Watch featured speakers share more about the collection and about prison journalism:

Open access to the collection on JSTOR

The American Prison Newspapers collection is open access and freely available to everyone who wishes to use it. Libraries can help their users discover the collection by adding it to A-Z lists and incorporating it into research guides in U.S. History, Sociology, Journalism, and Criminology & Criminal Justice. In addition, libraries can activate the collection in the following discovery services: ProQuest Summon, Ex Libris Alma, EBSCO Discovery Service, and OCLC WorldCat Discovery Services.


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:

Reveal Digital
165 Broadway, 5th Floor
New York, NY 10010
+ 1 212-358-6400

Please include an address or any other contact information at which you can be reached, and we will respond as soon as possible.

Reveal Digital affirms that digitization for American Prison Newspapers is overseen by JSTOR / ITHAKA staff, with a digitization vendor that adheres to standards of fair labor practices. No prison labor is engaged to complete digitization for any Reveal Digital collections.

Feel free to contact us at support.revealdigital@ithaka.org with any further questions about the availability of the newspapers in this collection.

Content contributors

The following libraries, archives, individuals,and publishers have agreed to provide source material for scanning. Please contact us if you or your organization has source material that you would like to contribute to the project:

    • Anne Sadler
    • Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records
    • Brigham Young University
    • Bucknell University
    • Chris Belden
    • Colorado State Library
    • Concord Free Public Library
    • Connecticut State Library
    • Denver Public Library
    • Florida State University
    • Fred Moor
    • Gary Farlow
    • Idaho State University Library
    • Indiana State Library
    • Iowa State University
    • Library of Michigan
    • Louisiana State University
    • Mabel Gazette H.E.R.O.
    • Minnesota Correctional Facility-Rush City (Minnesota Department of Corrections)
    • Minnesota Legislative Reference Library
    • Mule Creek Post, CA; D. Babbs, editor
    • Nash News (North Carolina: Editor: Phillip V. Smith)
    • Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse at the Nebraska Library Commission
    • New York State Library
  • Oklahoma State University
  • Patrick Irving, Founder & Editor, First Amend This!
  • Prison Action News
  • Private Donors: Kelsey Kauffman, Eleanor Novek
  • Project Hope to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • The Pelican; David Nygen, former editor
  • State Library of North Carolina
  • State Library of Oregon
  • Tulane University
  • University of Arkansas
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of Connecticut
  • University of Hawai’i
  • University of Illinois
  • University of Kentucky
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of Oregon
  • University of Texas, Austin
  • University of Vermont
  • University of Washington
  • University of Washington Libraries
  • University of Wisconsin
  • University of Wyoming
  • West Virginia University
  • Whitman College


The costs associated with publishing this important collection have been provided by 64 academic libraries that contributed to the Diversity & Dissent Fund or directly to the project, as well as 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.

Legal notice

American Prison Newspapers aims to create a faithful digital reproduction of the collective works as they originally appeared in print and pursuant to 17 U.S.C Section 201(c) of the Copyright Act. Please note that if content items in the American Prison Newspapers collection reference permissible terms of use, such as a Creative Commons license, users may make use of such items in accordance with the stated terms of such license as further detailed in the JSTOR Terms and Conditions of Use.