Prisoner Express: Journal Project

Cindy Tang

I’ve never really done any volunteer activities remotely related to prison reform before. When I first signed up for the Journal Project run by Prison Express, I had little idea what to expect. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. The Journal Project basically gives the inmates the opportunity to regularly send in reflections on their life and prison experience. We write back to inmates commenting on their journal entries and writing about our thoughts.

I’ve once read a letter from an inmate who was apparently struggling with his life at the moment. He never used the word “depressed”, but I could sense his feelings of despair and hopelessness through his words. He regrets the decisions he had made and he wants to do better, but he doesn’t think he deserves to be loved anymore and there is just no one for him to talk to behind the bars. I felt sorry for him. I don’t know why he ended up in prison, but I believe that inmates are still people. And like everybody else, they need some way to channel their depression and negative emotions, and sometimes they need someone that believes in the good they are capable of. I wrote back to him and encouraged him to keep writing, journals, poetry, anything.

He is just one among many. I kept going back to Prison Express every week because I believe that programs like this lighten the hopelessness experienced by many inmates. Writing poems or journals is like a safe space for them to vent. Writing helps in a lot of ways even when they’re behind the bars, so I always encouraged them to keep writing when I wrote back. Overall, I think this service event is truly meaningful and I will definitely keep going 🙂