Minnesota’s Prison Paper Mirrors Life in Small-Town (Behind Bars)


The Minneapolis Star Tribune profiles the Prison Mirror, the oldest jailhouse newspaper in America. In some ways, it’s like every small-town newspaper. The current issue features a well-researched story on the issue of felons and voting, a piece on an ice cream social fundraiser and a sophisticated chart with the results of a mock presidential election. The publication also showcases impressive artwork, essays, book reviews and an interview with a poet–all reported, edited and designed by prisoners.

The paper was founded by inmates who pooled their money back in 1887 and persuaded a new warden that it could be a valuable way to share life on the inside. Founding members included an infamous array of outlaws, including Cole Younger and his brothers. The small staff of the Mirror recently put together an impressive 23-page “commemorative issue” that tells the story of the paper in words, photos and drawings. It’s a lively history of a publication that has been alternately praised and condemned since its inception, accused of being both a negative outlet for carping criminals or a mouthpiece for Stillwater prison administrators.

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