MIT Center for Civic Media | Innovating civic media tools and practices together with communities

Between the Bars

Between the Bars, the blogging platform for people in prison, now has over 500 bloggers who have published nearly 8000 posts, each originating from postal mail. From heartfelt letters to their family to heartening stories of determination, the writers continue to inspire, delight, and provide a unique and personal insight into life in the world’s largest incarceration system. Through this work we seek to interrupt the destructive isolation of prisons through a public, online conversation.

In the last year, Between the Bars has begun the process of spinning out from the Center for Civic Media by incorporating as a non-profit. We’re seeking new models for revenue, growth, and impact, including partnerships with other organizations campaigning to end mass incarceration. Letters we received as part of the “Phone Justice” campaign, a long running effort by dozens of activist organizations, helped to pressure the FCC to recommend new rules reducing the extortionate cost of basic phone calls in prison in late 2012. This spring, we’ve also begun supporting the Papyrus Collective, a group of bloggers on Death Row in San Quentin who have organized to amplify their message. Over the summer we will be collaborating with the organization Working Narratives to collect poems from both our writers for a Prison Poetry Workshop. Nearly 100 writers will create new works in response to 9 prompts inspired by the poetry of those who have been or are incarcerated.

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Wow! That's a novel idea. You will get to hear from the other side of the bar. Will it have options to send the feedback/comments back to the author through a paper copy or as an audio version?

I see the potential of this project. You could use this in poor countries where many people cannot blog in their local languages due to browser language support and other technical limitations. You could use this system to get the word out. I am interested is exploring further when the all the features of the software are made public.


I wish it would be a lot of people involved in this kind of projects.. behind the bars..
Good luck!

How can I get involved? Do you need people from afar (Philadelphia area) to help in any way? Please write

I just came across your post on PTO, and thought it was interesting, because I am publishing a blog for an inmate who was recently incarcerated. We both thought it would be a good idea to allow people on the outside to be able to read about what his experience is like, as well as allow his friends and family to keep updated on how he is doing. If you'd like to follow the blog, or perhaps even refer to it or use it in your project, you can find it at or email me at

I have some valuable info that could be helpful on this project. You can email me at

Wondering if there's an application for rural, aging and native populations who also lack online access...