The Prisoner Correspondence Project started in 2008 in Montreal by taking on a handful of surplus letters from another organization and committing to finding them penpals. Since then it has grown exponentially as word travels inside prisons. The project is run by an all-volunteer group. An outside collective of about 6-10 people answers letters, sends resources inside, and compiles the newsletter. An inside advisory committee of 4-8 people helps choose newsletter themes, reviews new resources to be added, and offers general feedback on the functioning of the project.
One question that we often field is why we focus on LGBT prisoners. On one hand, LGBT prisoners face an intensification of many of the issues faced by all prisoners: exposure to violence and sexual violence, mailroom surveillance and censorship, medical neglect, lack of safer sex information or materials, and a profound isolation from friends, families, chosen families, and other networks of support. For a deeper understanding of the issues faced, check out Black and Pink’s excellent report Coming Out of Concrete Closets.
On the other hand, we view it as an opportunity to draw the wider LGBT community into prison justice organizing. We believe we can build on gay liberation legacies to work in solidarity with a larger prison justice movement. We are guided by a commitment to community support, a deep and historic suspicion of policing and surveillance, the belief that personal relationships are an integral part of consciousness building, and an unyielding dedication to sexual and gender self-determination.