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“Life Inside” is a weekly series of first-person essays from people who live or work in the criminal justice system. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get it in your inbox.

We're looking for 1,000 to 1,400-word nonfiction stories about a vivid, surprising, personal experience you had with the system—whether you are currently or formerly incarcerated, on probation or parole, a family member of an incarcerated person, a victim, judge, lawyer or police officer, or you otherwise interact with the system.

We don’t accept poetry, fiction, op-eds and essays that are not related to criminal justice.

Email pitches to lifeinside@themarshallproject.org or mail them to us.

Please note that we are unable to respond to all of the pitches that we receive. If we’d like to work on a piece with you, there will be an editing process.

Life Inside June 10
Jy’Aire Smith-Pennick suffered multiple traumas before age 18. He masked his pain with Percocet, weed and drug-selling. Now, at a Pennsylvania prison with the right programs, he’s finally starting to heal.
Life Inside May 21
Felix Sitthivong, who is serving 65 years in a Washington prison, recently testified before the state’s House Public Safety Committee in support of a bill that could decrease his time. “They can stall our bills,” he writes of the “disappointing” outcome, “but they can never stall our dedication.”
Life Inside May 13
At age 17, I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. I got out due to Supreme Court decisions, but there was one catch: Parole for the rest of my life.
Life Inside May 6
Willette Benford was one of several incarcerated women who sued the Illinois corrections department for using mass strip searches to train cadets. A small settlement check took her back to the shame and trauma of those incidents.
Life Inside April 29
I was born in D.C. to South Indian parents. But it wasn’t until I had to negotiate the criminal justice system that I fully realized what many Americans of color have to deal with.
Feature April 23
At the start of the pandemic, we asked four incarcerated people to chronicle daily life with the coronavirus. Here, they reveal what they witnessed and how they coped with the chaos, fear, isolation and deaths.
Rahsaan Thomas, an imprisoned journalist, has long fought to change the way outside media describe people in prison. One of his toughest crowds? His fellow reporters.
While we have to be aware that any word we choose has influence, no amount of Googling will reveal the magic word that brings justice into American prisons.
Of course not everyone means harm when they use prison labels. But that doesn’t make the language any less damaging.
As correctional officers, we are conditioned to call prisoners ‘inmates.’ But at Sing Sing, where I worked for 25 years, that was as bad as calling them a snitch.