became the first regular, inmate-written byline in 2012. Consider that: with the wealth of knowledge and stories that incarcerated people have, no one gave even one of them a regular byline in a news publication until well into the 21st century. Sure, inmates published here and there, but a regular spot was unheard of, most likely because of the reliance on prison mail to get the column out of the facility and into an editor’s hands. Prison Diaries was eventually canceled (probably due to a complaint by a guard/guards) but just a few months later, Chelsea Manning was given a regular byline at The Guardian, assuring that voices from inside made it out.
I had no idea how I would be received when I attended my first NSNC conference in 2016. Even though I lead with it whenever I introduce myself, telling someone: “Yeah, I was in prison” will always be difficult.
I was humbled at the gracious and warm reception I received from everyone at the conference. I got to meet Suzette Martinez Standring, whose book I found in the prison library and pushed me to write. The brilliance and the humor of columnists in attendance astounded me.
I am a columnist, mostly because the people at NSNC helped me – and allowed me – to become one.
I thank all of you.