This website investigates penal publishing as a precarious site of resistance.

Since 1800, hundreds of newspapers written by incarcerated people have been printed in U.S. prisons, ranging from underground zines, discreetly published in a shop’s downtime, to widely-circulated magazines. Sometimes radical, often subversive, this “penal press” forms a powerful counter-archive to the wash of mundane government forms, non-profit booklets, and envelopes printed for pennies on the dollar by prison labor, often without any mark of their origins.

Our primary case study is Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary, a panopticon-style prison built in the 1830s (and now a museum). The world’s first true penitentiary, it was also one of the first prisons to set up a print shop where those inside learned to set type, pull presses, and bind books. Through curated exhibits backed by a fully searchable index of articles, this site tells the unknown stories of Eastern State’s incarcerated editors, writers, and printers.