Hundreds dead. Thousands infected. Stories from the inside.
UCI has created a digital archive to preserve the stories of people who are incarcerated in California prisons, their family members and loved ones, and the employees who work in these facilities. This living archive tracks people’s stories across time (with accounts from the start of the pandemic and moving forward) and place (across all 35 California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation facilities). In creating PrisonPandemic, our hope is that the archive will outlive the COVID-19 pandemic and serve as a resource for understanding the unequal toll of the prison system in the United States.
Why was this project started?: As we read the news about COVID-19 ravaging our prisons over the last year, we have been concerned about the dangerous effects of the virus on people living and working in prisons (and on their loved ones). And we have noted that there are currently no systematic accounts of how prisoners, their loved ones, and the staff and officers who work in prisons are experiencing this public health crisis. In fact, widespread lockdowns and outside visitor prohibitions have cut off prisoners from most outside contact. We started this project to address these concerns.
What are goals of this project?: There are two main goals for this project. First, we hope to bear witness to what people are experiencing inside our prisons during the pandemic. We want to give them an opportunity to describe their experiences and for them to know that people are listening to and sharing those descriptions.
Second, we want to bring greater transparency to the crisis through the creation of our digital archive. The archive will serve as a resource for understanding the pandemic’s unequal toll. By providing individuals in prison an opportunity to share their stories, this project will raise awareness to the vulnerabilities experienced by this population.
Since October 2020, we have collected hundreds of stories from people who are incarcerated. We are continuing to collect stories from those inside prisons, their loved ones, and those working in the prisons. We are also working to develop outreach projects (e.g., podcasts, plays, social media advertisements) to amplify the voices in the archive.
Your contribution today will help us shine a light on this crisis and help share their stories.