Published on December 9th, 2020 | by Nature Humphries0
Coming in January 2021: “Mississippi Prison Writing” Features Poetry, Essays from Inside the State’s Prison Community
For the past several months, The Local Voice and VOX Press have presented excerpts from an upcoming volume titled Mississippi Prison Writing. These excerpts have provided a small glimpse into what life can be like for incarcerated people, and readers have responded enthusiastically to these raw, heartfelt writings.
In January 2021, the full volume will be released by VOX Press as the third installment in the Prison Writes Initiative (PWI) series. The first two books, In Our Own Words: Writings from Parchman Farm (2014) and Unit 30: New Writings from Parchman Farm (2016), are available locally at Square Books or online at Amazon and feature writing solely from the Mississippi State Penitentiary, a.k.a. Parchman Farm. The newest volume reaches further into the Mississippi criminal justice system, giving voice to a wider demographic of the state’s prison population.
Cofounder and Executive Director of VOX Press, Louis Bourgeois, said, “Mississippi Prison Writing is significant because of the range of inmates who are represented. Women, men, youth, the elderly and disabled, people in long term segregation and Death Row, inmate students from Units 29, 30, and 31 at Parchman, and youth student inmates and women from Central Mississippi Correctional Facility outside of Jackson. Like a fine stew, the book has been cooking slowly for almost five years now.”
Although COVID has caused some complications, PWI currently has seven classes in three different prisons, and is a fully functioning program with a strong future. Bourgeois hopes that significant library sales will help to fund the program for years to come. Over three hundred inmates have graduated from the Prison Writes Initiative program. With over 20,000 inmates in the Mississippi prison system, the goal of the program is to help increase their chances of success when they return to the general population.
“VOX PRESS believes that teaching students to read and write can provide invaluable skills for newly released inmates who are entering the job market. Prison Writes will enhance job-seeking, critical thinking, and reading/writing skills through the study of creative writing,” said Bourgeois in a 2014 interview.