Marshall Project Originals
What I Think About When I Think About Freedom
“It’s conflicting, I imagine, to hear how someone who once took a life thinks about living a good life.”
The Never-Ending Drug Hustle Behind Bars
“While I went to high school with casual weed smokers and worked at various jobs with weekend coke snorters, I was entirely unprepared for what I’ve seen in state prison.”
Finding Peace—and Briefly, Freedom—at My Grandfather’s Funeral
“Saying goodbye with the people who loved him—and me—I remember that I am not the tomb that imprisons me.”
All I Really Need to Know I Learned on the Streets of the Garment District
“The runaways, the mobsters, the pimps—they saw me as someone credible, someone who didn’t judge them.”
Want to Time Travel Back to the 80s? Visit a Prison “Typing Room”
“The typing room is where the optimism of naive, hopeful, recently incarcerated inmates goes to die.”
In My Prison, Summer is “Ticket Season”
“If you move the wrong way—ticket. You look the wrong way—ticket. Breathe—ticket.”
Mourning a Stranger’s Suicide in Prison
“Together we prayed and talked about who this girl might have been—and who she might have become.”
In Sickness, In Health—and In Prison
A Nebraska couple fighting to marry behind bars wouldn’t be the first: Three decades ago, two prisoners took their bid to marry all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
I Had a Shitty Job in Prison
“Down in a wastewater-treatment pit, I kept furiously shoving the black liquid toward the pump, with a squeegee.”
My Dad Taught Me How to Build Things. Now I’m Doing It in Prison.
“What neither of us knew was that coming to prison would create new worlds for me to build.”
I Thought I Knew My Father, Then I Met Him in Prison
“In a way, it was like seeing myself clearly for the first time.”
Father and Son, Next Door Neighbors in Prison
"We take turns holding the mirror to see each other. And we talk for hours."
The Underground Art of Prison Tattoos
Broken spoons, beard trimmer parts and other ingenious, sometimes dangerous, tools used by incarcerated body artists.
I Lost 25 Pounds in 4 Months Eating Prison Food
“I couldn’t wait to go home, restart my life—and eat a diet that didn’t kill me.”
Money Changed Everything for Me in Prison
“I am not evidence that the system ‘works.’ I am an outlier, dripping in luck.”
I Watched a Man Die in Prison. His Last Words Haunt Me.
“There is hardly a day that passes when I do not see his face.”
The Agony and Isolation of Tearing Your ACL in Prison
“There wasn’t enough ibuprofen in the world to combat the pain I was experiencing.”
I'm in Prison—And on HBO
Theothus Carter reflects on starring in the film “O.G.”, alongside Jeffrey Wright, while serving time in prison.
I Proposed to My Girlfriend From Prison
“I didn't have anything to offer her except a lot of lonely nights.”
Why Showering in Prison Is Hell
“Step by step, I shuffle forward amid the mass of bodies, waiting to get inside.”
How Prisoners Brought 'Death of a Salesman' to Life
“Everything in that room, and everyone, was shining, just for a moment.”
The Isolation of Being Deaf in Prison
“I didn’t have a way to communicate. And they basically just flipped me the bird.”
More Women Are Behind Bars Now. One Prison Wants to Change That.
Connecticut’s WORTH program uses therapy, classes and mentoring to try to keep women from coming back.
The Prison Portraits
A Pennsylvania artist draws hundreds of fellow inmates to show the scale of mass incarceration.
The Awful Thing I Saw in Prison That Stunned Me Into Silence
"It was the kind of moment that you witness but your brain just rejects; you can’t believe what you just saw."
Documenting the Hard Truths of Prison and Policing
At Tribeca Film Festival, new documentaries give voice to the incarcerated and communities struggling with crime.
Prison Is Already Scary. It's Even Worse During a Blackout
As darkness fell, nerves got rattled and rumors spread.
Death Row’s First Ever Talent Show
Featuring an “impresario,” a gyrating orange juggler, and an audience-pleasing grand finale.
Caring for My Sick Husband From Prison
A federal inmate feels helpless as her partner’s health deteriorates.
When a Wedding Narrowed the ‘Emotional Distance’ of Prison
For the best man, a fleeting moment of humanity.
My Best Friends in Prison are Frogs, Turtles, and Raccoons
Sharing space with open-minded visitors from beyond the walls.
How a Phone Changed My Life on Death Row
“I felt like a virgin on my wedding night — eager to put this thing to use, not sure if it’ll hurt.”
The Best Guard at My Prison Was Murdered
“Timothy. His first name was Timothy. I hadn’t known that. They punish us for using guards’ first names.”
A Primer on the Nationwide Prisoners’ Strike
Prisoners can be forced to work without pay — the Constitution says so.
Do Prison Strikes Work?
Amid a current prison work stoppage, here are five strikes and how they turned out.
When an Old Law Makes It Hard to Fix a Troubled Jail
A federal statute from the Carter era favors negotiation, but that can take a long time.
How Having a Dog Changed My Life in Prison
“Until now, touching another living thing took place in the context of fights, pat-downs, and strip searches.”
What I've Learned Cutting Hair in Jail
“They look tired, ragged, and sick, more so than they thought they would.”
The Absurd Things I Heard Through the Vents in My Prison Cell
“The man proceeded to make car noises.”
What You Do While You Wait for Your Husband to Go to Prison
“Drive whenever you go anywhere, get your financial house in order, finalize your will, take baths, and cry.”
Watch a Video From “Mariposa and the Saint,” a New Play About Solitary Confinement
The work is based on years of letters between Julia Steele Allen and Sara Fonseca.
A Rare, White Christmas in a Texas Prison
“A few flakes continued to fall, and for a moment, I forgot where I was.”
Deck the Dorm: A Christmas Contest in a Kentucky Jail
The Louisville jail holds an annual competition to bring cheer to a tough time of year
A New York Prison-Yard Search and 10 Cases of Frostbite
Barehanded, inmates are ordered to grip a metal fence in 10-degree weather.
Prisoners Who Fight Wildfires in California: An Insider’s Look
For $2 a day, “It’s a hairy adventure, let me tell you.”
Why Dylann Roof’s Racism Will Only be Nurtured in Prison
An author and former prisoner reflects on the white supremacist’s potential fate.
Fact-Checking Season 3 of Orange Is the New Black
A former CO — and first-time OITNB-watcher — weighs in.
‘I Feel Unsafe Every Day.’
An Oklahoma corrections officer on the stress and danger of understaffing, and why each inmate should be given a joint twice a day.
Adding Pepper Spray to the Prison Arsenal
A new Human Rights Watch report assesses use of force behind bars.
Older Prisoners, Higher Costs
A tough, new report says it’s time for federal prisons to release the elderly and infirm.
‘If You’ve Been Waiting in Jail for Several Months, Prison is Considered the Promised Land.’
Daniel Luke, a 45-year-old former inmate from Oregon, on his time behind bars and what he struggles with now that he’s out.
‘Sure, People Are Talking About Prison Reform, but They Aren’t Actually Doing Anything.’
Inmate-turned-journalist Paul Wright on what he’s learned in his 25 years covering the prison system.
16-Hour Shifts, 300 Inmates to Watch, and 1 Lonely Son
The very sleep-deprived life of a corrections officer.