The Power of The Pen: Prisoners' Letters to Explore Extreme Imprisonment.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article examines how we might best examine the most extreme and inaccessible corners of imprisonment. Drawing on a study of life imprisonment without parole (LWOP) in California, this article argues that prisoners’ letters can shed exceptional light on the hidden and unspoken experiences of imprisonment. It provides an in-depth methodological and reflective outline of how to use prisoners’ letters, a familiar tactic in prison researchers’ and advocates’ toolkits, but a research implement that is rarely discussed explicitly. By better understanding how to do prison research with letters and the emotions these might provoke in the process, this article demonstrates the very specific and distinct value of the method, in particular how letters can contribute to knowledge about extreme penal severity.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Early online date19 Dec 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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