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First-person essays from those who work or live in the criminal justice system. Please send pitches for Life Inside to or mail them to us. 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're a lawyer, prisoner, judge, victim, police officer, or otherwise work or live inside the system. Poetry, fiction, essays about experiences that are not directly related to criminal justice, and op-eds will not be accepted. Our honor roll recognizing Kickstarter donors who generously supported Life Inside can be viewed here.
Life Inside July 12
“We aren’t deadbeats — our days are, in fact, incredibly full.”
Life Inside July 5
How one former inmate found healing—and himself—through music.
Life Inside June 28
Navigating the sometimes weird, arcane rules about inmate contraband.
Life Inside June 21
"I was made to feel like a second-class victim."
Life Inside June 14
“I won’t be swept under the rug anymore. This is me.”
Life Inside June 7
Our victories over college students weren’t just for us—they were for incarcerated people everywhere.
Life Inside May 31
“We leaned on each other. We found reasons to laugh while in agony.”
Life Inside May 24
“This is the path my life had to take so I could be strong.”
Life Inside May 17
Not even an extra boiled egg.
Life Inside May 10
“It started to sink in that I wouldn’t really get a childhood.”
Life Inside May 3
After I left prison, nobody would hire me. So I threw a dart at a map.
Life Inside April 26
“With my new lease on life, I still remember the one I took.”
Life Inside April 19
As darkness fell, nerves got rattled and rumors spread.
Life Inside April 12
“I wondered whether the system I have been a part of for so long was, simply, barbaric.”
Life Inside April 5
“Taking classes helped me forget that I wasn’t free.”
Life Inside March 29
“I felt like I aged 10 years just by doing 20 days in there.”
Life Inside March 22
Featuring an “impresario,” a gyrating orange juggler, and an audience-pleasing grand finale.
Life Inside March 15
The Obamas are part of the Illuminati. Former inmates get lifetime benefits. “Franking.” And other myths that spread behind bars.
Life Inside March 8
A federal inmate feels helpless as her partner’s health deteriorates.
Life Inside March 1
“Nothing about life inside prison is normal.”
Life Inside February 22
A juror’s regret.
Life Inside February 15
"The only right you have, I told him, is to make it home alive."
Life Inside February 8
“I’ve seen more men masturbate than I can count.”
Life Inside February 1
He completed his prison sentence. Then immigration officers came calling.
Life Inside January 25
When a trip to the hospital means spending hours on a cramped bus handcuffed to another prisoner.
Life Inside January 18
“It felt like all eyes were on me.”
Life Inside January 11
A mystery unfolds during an urgent phone call.
Life Inside January 4
A fretful prisoner struggles with an ever-growing list of symptoms.
Life Inside December 21, 2017
Outed by Accident, More Vigilant by Necessity
Life Inside December 14, 2017
Where the culture was Hispanic, ‘Me llamo Morgan’ got me started.
Life Inside December 7, 2017
A “baby-faced kid” comes of age while incarcerated.
Life Inside November 30, 2017
“It felt like the universe put us together.”
Life Inside November 16, 2017
After a bloody fight in the yard, an inmate reflects on his behavior.
Life Inside November 10, 2017
“I had no idea how much pain I would be forced to carry alone.”
Life Inside November 2, 2017
People say the darndest things when they hear your spouse is incarcerated.
Life Inside October 26, 2017
“The criminal justice system has become an ever-present shadow looming over my life.”
Life Inside October 19, 2017
One of the strangest, cruelest stories of wrongful conviction you’ll ever read.
Life Inside October 12, 2017
For two women getting hitched at Rikers Island, the ceremony was short and bittersweet.
Life Inside October 5, 2017
The 24/7 nature of corrections work can make it all-consuming.
Life Inside September 28, 2017
Law school doesn’t prepare you for delivering bad news to victims and their families.
Life Inside September 21, 2017
No matter what, I don't think he should die.
Life Inside September 14, 2017
A mother with debts — and cancer — wonders if she’ll ever see her incarcerated children again.
Life Inside September 7, 2017
Employee perks: None, really, unless you count the nail gun fights.
Life Inside August 31, 2017
A judge explains how he decides whether to release a defendant before trial without bail — and how it can go bad.
Life Inside August 24, 2017
Charlottesville: Views from the cellblock.
Life Inside August 17, 2017
A Christian inmate confronts his own beliefs.
Life Inside August 10, 2017
An inmate who grew up worshipping Hitler forces a reading group facilitator to challenge her own beliefs.
Life Inside August 3, 2017
A Yale Law School graduate speaks to young incarcerated people and faces his own past.
Life Inside July 28, 2017
At Rikers, it uses up a day. At the courthouse? Don’t hold your breath.
Life Inside July 20, 2017
An inmate remembers his bond with a prison employee who was more than just “one of them.”
Life Inside July 13, 2017
A rash of suicides in solitary confinement hits an inmate close to home.
Life Inside July 6, 2017
The teenage son of an incarcerated man braces for news that could bring his father home.
Life Inside June 29, 2017
After a violent encounter, an inmate makes a life change.
Life Inside June 22, 2017
Or, how I learned to use a computer in prison.
Life Inside June 15, 2017
An inmate offers an apology that brings him face to face with his crime.
Life Inside June 8, 2017
An illicit prison veggie patch whets inmates’ memories of freedom.
Life Inside June 1, 2017
A small business owner fights back against changes in the bail industry.
Life Inside May 25, 2017
A reflection on “the improbability of us.”
Life Inside May 18, 2017
Now he’s ‘a statistic, and so am I.’
Life Inside May 11, 2017
A lifer takes up running to “earn back” his life.
Life Inside May 4, 2017
A judge examines the impact on those he sentences.
Life Inside April 27, 2017
A social worker struggles to keep the mentally ill poor out of jail.
Life Inside April 20, 2017
One ex-inmate’s view of a comfy 6-month stay.
Life Inside April 13, 2017
An inmate, his typewriter and dreams of the Internet.
Life Inside April 6, 2017
In Arkansas, 8 men are scheduled to die by lethal injection this month.
Life Inside March 30, 2017
A prison psychologist mourns a patient he tried to save.
Life Inside March 23, 2017
Two years later and no arrest. ‘Will it ever happen?’
Life Inside March 16, 2017
Always playing against the clock.
Life Inside March 9, 2017
But only after two wrongly convicted men were set free.
Life Inside March 2, 2017
An inmate with cancer wonders if her parole will come soon enough.
Life Inside February 23, 2017
Trivial Pursuit, Ted Kaczynski, and candy bars.
Life Inside February 16, 2017
‘I can’t touch him and comfort him.’
Life Inside February 9, 2017
For the best man, a fleeting moment of humanity.
Life Inside February 2, 2017
Discipline at work, leniency at home—with doubts.
Life Inside January 26, 2017
Is dying sooner better than being executed later?
Life Inside January 19, 2017
How the justice system saved an addict.
Life Inside January 12, 2017
Sharing space with open-minded visitors from beyond the walls.
Life Inside January 5, 2017
A grandmother struggles to explain the unexplainable.
Life Inside December 22, 2016
In cell 62, another birthday turns into another day alone.
Life Inside December 15, 2016
A victim is transformed by a family history of crime and violence.
Life Inside December 8, 2016
Craving the madness.
Life Inside December 1, 2016
What I saw tracking down the mentally ill in jail.
Life Inside November 17, 2016
“Her eyes were slightly open, but vacant.”
Life Inside November 10, 2016
Spending 20 hours a day with someone else’s delusions.
Life Inside November 3, 2016
“Yo… this dude Trump is outta line!”
Life Inside October 27, 2016
The terror and joy of stepping outside.
Life Inside October 20, 2016
“Being able to vote — that’s rare for people like me.”
Life Inside October 13, 2016
“No one wants to be accused of being ‘inmate-friendly.’”
Life Inside October 6, 2016
“I felt like a virgin on my wedding night — eager to put this thing to use, not sure if it’ll hurt.”
Life Inside September 29, 2016
“Timothy. His first name was Timothy. I hadn’t known that. They punish us for using guards’ first names.”
Life Inside September 22, 2016
“My usual insights didn’t seem to apply. I didn’t know how to help her.”
Life Inside September 8, 2016
“I can’t help but hate myself for what I did.”
Life Inside September 1, 2016
“Until now, touching another living thing took place in the context of fights, pat-downs, and strip searches.”
Life Inside August 25, 2016
“They look tired, ragged, and sick, more so than they thought they would.”
Life Inside August 18, 2016
A prisoner’s world becomes even smaller.
Life Inside August 11, 2016
“I was shocked at the ​casual racism emanating from the bench.​”
Life Inside August 4, 2016
“The man proceeded to make car noises.”
Life Inside July 28, 2016
Even when I was being paid in mackerel and stamps.
Life Inside July 21, 2016
“I’ve been called a persecutor and a sellout.”
Life Inside July 14, 2016
“Men in suits would sit there and actually talk about what my husband's life was worth.”
Life Inside July 7, 2016
Dehydrated, hungry prisoners defecating on themselves.
Life Inside June 30, 2016
“Drive whenever you go anywhere, get your financial house in order, finalize your will, take baths, and cry.”
Life Inside June 23, 2016
And it got a million clicks.
Life Inside June 16, 2016
A play-by-play of a police-involved shooting in Ohio.
Life Inside June 9, 2016
And it made me a different person.
Life Inside June 2, 2016
A prosecutor on the case he’ll never forget.
Life Inside May 26, 2016
Inside an innocence investigator’s hunt for a key witness.
Life Inside May 19, 2016
Solitary takes its toll.
Life Inside May 12, 2016
And the case I’ll never forget.
Life Inside May 5, 2016
On living with, and sharing, that information for a lifetime.
Life Inside April 28, 2016
“Sometimes I won’t hear from my family in years.”
Life Inside April 21, 2016
Moral conflicts at every turn.
Life Inside April 14, 2016
Frequent urine tests, controversial scanners, and false positives.
Life Inside April 7, 2016
“At the end of my life, I’d like to know that I wasn’t responsible for Lewis Clay spending his final days in prison.”
Life Inside March 31, 2016
San Quentin inmate Kevin Cooper on watching the minutes tick away on his life.
Life Inside March 25, 2016
Fear and anxiety during a three-day lockdown.
Life Inside March 17, 2016
Tales of the “pale, white-haired, geezer in a wheelchair.”
Life Inside March 10, 2016
“If I could have done anything, it would have been to deadlock the jury, but I didn’t have the personal strength to do that.”
Life Inside March 4, 2016
What it’s like to slowly lose your mind in the grossest corner of the prison-industrial complex.
Life Inside February 25, 2016
When the people in charge are homophobic.
Life Inside February 18, 2016
Life, restricted.
Life Inside February 12, 2016
Finding refuge in old media.
Life Inside February 5, 2016
One crinkly letter at a time.
Life Inside January 15, 2016
From moonshine to tattoos to balloons of drugs.
Life Inside January 8, 2016
Finger handshakes, the toilet phone, and the “shoe bomber.”
Life Inside December 23, 2015
“A few flakes continued to fall, and for a moment, I forgot where I was.”
Life Inside December 11, 2015
On loss behind bars.
Life Inside December 4, 2015
After 34 years inside, sometimes you never feel free.
Life Inside November 25, 2015
Cooking turkeys, building resumes.
Life Inside October 27, 2015
Ten days in a room with 22 other jurors. What could possibly go wrong?
Life Inside July 31, 2015
The imagined journey of Steven Ray Epperson.
Life Inside July 16, 2015
Freedom, with conditions.
Life Inside July 7, 2015
The ongoing fight for more, and better, prison food.
Life Inside June 9, 2015
“The staff didn't have a clue.”
Life Inside June 2, 2015
In which the rookie learns what police really think.
Life Inside May 26, 2015
A prisoner and former foster child on the kids he knew — and the inmates they became.
Life Inside May 19, 2015
Most of us get out old and broke. Not me.
Life Inside April 22, 2015
One inmate’s unexpurgated version of life in a Mississippi prison
Life Inside February 13, 2015
A relationship told through letters.
Life Inside February 9, 2015
Out of prison, not yet home.
Life Inside February 5, 2015
The life of a transgender corrections officer.
Life Inside January 5, 2015
I was taught that judges reason, never feel. And yet …
Life Inside November 15, 2014
An aging bank robber faces the end.