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Prisoner Express: Support Education, Humanity and Rehabilitation

Raised toward our $5,000 Goal
109 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on May 08, at 12:00 AM EDT
Project Owners

So much gratitude...

May 10, 2019

We did it!  Thanks to your help, Prisoner Express was able to reach our $5000 goal and then some!  This is our first crowdfunding campaign and over 100 people pitched in to help make it happen.  We’re so grateful to know that people are out there who support this work.

Your contributions will go directly into making Prisoner Express and its programming available to over 4000 people who are incarcerated.

You can get more updates about the program at  

Watch for an article about Prisoner Express in the Cornell Alumni Magazine this summer.


Thanks from all of us involved.  We could not have done this without you!


With so much gratitude,


Gary, Heidi, Ryan and all the student staff and volunteers

Almost there! Help us get to 100%

May 06, 2019

Dear friends and supporters of Prisoner Express,


Right now we're at 74% of our modest goal to raise $5,000 for Prisoner Express and we have just one day left. Will you help us get over the finish line? 


Your contribution could be the one that helps us reach our goal, and sharing your "why", the reason you feel compelled to help out would also help us. I would love to share with everyone as we wrap up our campaign. 


Prisoner Express and all the volunteers involved operate on a moral agreement that everyone deserves to heal, to connect, and to be seen for who they are. 


81 people have stepped up to show their support.


In many ways, Prisoner Express is about spreading the humanity of the hundreds of thousands of people incarcerated in the U.S. prisons. Unfortunately, so much of the public appears to be indifferent to the many prisoners, which can fuel the problems we all know need to be solved. 


Thank you for your difference and for paying attention. It's so valuable!


Thanks, Ryan


Community Read: The New Jim Crow

May 02, 2019

Criminal Justice or the New Jim Crow?


May 1, 2019/Cathy Xie


The rate of incarceration in the United States is higher than anywhere else in the world, and our legal system has shown a particular structural bias against black males. Author Michelle Alexander explores and documents this phenomenon in her book, The New Jim Crow, and we wanted to know what prisoners across the country thought of Ms. Alexander’s position.


Prisoner Express enlists thousands of prisoners to participate in our distance learning and creative writing programs. Since we only had 150 copies of the book, we asked interested members to write and tell us why we should include them in the project. Then, at PE, we sorted through all of the application letters and formed a diverse group of prisoners to receive the book and a series of accompanying questions. Over a few months, students from the Alternatives Library read the responses and created a compilation document to share with all the prisoners who participated. It was exciting for us to see how opinions changed as the prisoners read the book.



Please read through their comments about prison life and their reaction to “The New Jim Crow” and consider supporting Prisoner Express. We have 500 copies of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut for our next book club assignment, but we need to raise $2000 to pay for the postage to mail the books, questions and compilation documents to the participants.


By supporting PE, you will be supporting our next book club assignment — you will be giving prisoners the opportunity to become educated, grow, and express themselves freely.


Click here to read prisoner responses to The New Jim Crow.  

Songwriting by Mail: 40 Prisoners Create “Pick it Up”

April 28, 2019

Our campaign is entering its final stretch and we are inspired by your generous support.  Thank you so much!



Ever feel like you've got a song inside you that just needs to be sung?  Here's an interesting story about a Prisoner Express course developed by Kathy Ziegler that invited prisoners to create original songs and share them. Over 400 folks participated.


Listen to their song  and learn more about the writers and magic behind it.


Do you have a talent or idea for a program that you’d like to share with prisoners?  We’d love to hear about it!


PE Impacts Prisoners and Cornell Students

April 22, 2019

We are halfway through our campaign and are hopeful that we can raise the funds necessary to keep sending out our programming to incarcerated individuals.  If you’ve already donated, thank you! We hope you will share our work with others. If you haven’t had a chance to show your support there is still time.  


We'd like to introduce you to Lucy who has has been busy reading poems and selecting works for the upcoming PE Poetry Anthology.  Here's what she shared about the impact the program has on those in prison, as well as on Cornell students like herself who are involved. 


"I started working at Prison Express about a month ago as the new poetry coordinator. I sort through poems and select the best ones to be featured in our anthology. Immediately I was taken aback by the amount of talent reflected in these poems. People often perceive prisoners as heartless and unintelligent; however, it only took me a few minutes to realize that these stereotypes are far from the truth. I was most surprised by the level of social awareness that was expressed through these poems; prisoners touched upon issues such as immigration, racism, sexism, gun violence, climate change, and more. Many of them have come to realize that their imprisonment is largely a result of systematic inequalities that have led to the profitization of black and brown bodies. I love my job because I am consistently learning and becoming inspired by the poems that I read. As a sociology and government major, I constantly learn about social inequalities in class but there is something invaluable about learning directly through people’s own artistic expressions. I am looking forward to our publication of Anthology 21; I know that it will hold incredible eye-opening poems that will transform the way people perceive prisoners."



Prisoner Express Art from Behind Bars Exhibit Opening Wednesday April 17

April 14, 2019

We’ve only reached 5% of our goal.  

Can you help us reach our $10,000 mark before May 8? 


If you are in the area please join us this Wednesday to experience the ways in which Prisoner Express provides opportunities for creative self-expression.  You can get involved too.  Read on to find out how. 


                                    Prisoner Express Art Exhibit Opening

                                    Wednesday, April 17 6:30-8:30 pm

                                    Refreshments and Unique Art at the Big Red Barn


  Prisoner Express presents Art from Behind Bars, which features the work of incarcerated individuals.  The show at the Big Red Barn launches a traveling exhibition that will be presented over the next year at different venues throughout the Finger Lakes region. This provides an opportunity for the larger community beyond Cornell to see the artwork of prisoners.


The annual prisoner art exhibition at the Big Red Barn sponsored by the Prisoner Express of Durland Alternatives Library will be held from April 17 through May 5. The art is representative of prisoners who participate in PE’s distance learning program which provides academic and creative projects to 4500 prisoners throughout the United States.


   The community is invited to join us for a reception of the exhibition and to participate in writing letters to artists whose work is on display. Paper and envelopes will be provided and we will mail the letters to the prison artists. First names are used and the return address is Durland Alternatives Library.  The human need for acknowledgment is often denied to prisoners and your comments and your letters provide meaningful support.


Please join us on April 17 from 6:30 to 8:30 for viewing the art and the opportunity to write letters of encouragement to the prison artists!


  “ Prisoner Express was a window in my cell that allowed me to see the world outside of prison.  Through that window, P.E. invited me to write stories and essays about things that mattered to me.  Writing all those stories and essays helped me to examine the way I think and feel - and that really changed my life for the better.  You see, P.E. allowed me to advance my communication skills and that alone is the greatest thing that will help you transition from the inside to the outside.” Dave Gordon recently released long time PE member




Choose a giving level


Mail Call

Volunteers personally respond to the letters and journals that prisoners mail in. Many prisoners have shared that receiving these handwritten correspondences has helped them cope with the loneliness and isolation of incarceration. A donation in this amount could buy a book of 20 stamps so participants can hear their name at mail call.


Boxes of Books

What are prisoners requesting to read? Alex, one of our student volunteers, hand-picks books for participants based on their interests. Philosophy, fiction, and dictionaries are popular requests. Other volunteers package and post them. A donation of this amount is like paying the postage to send two large packages of donated books to prisoners.


Mailing PE Programs

In addition to requesting books, prisoners can enroll in a variety of courses about history, science, crafts, creative writing, psychology, and meditation, just to name a few. Support at this level could fund programming costs like the postage to mail 250 distance learning packets via USPS bulk mail.


Printing Educational Lessons

Many of these educational packets contain lesson plans created by Cornell students. A donation in this amount could cover the cost of printing 100 twenty-eight page volunteer-developed distance learning lessons.


Prison Poet Laureates

The PE Poetry Program is equally popular among prisoners and Cornell student volunteers. Help fund programming costs like the printing and mailing of an edition of the PE Poetry Anthology to 500 prisoner-poets when you choose to give at this level.


PE Newsletter Publisher

Your donation could help with expenses associated with publishing and distributing an edition of the PE newsletter to over 4000 active members. Often newsletters will find their way into the hands of folks who aren't members but want to join PE. This is how the program has grown so quickly. And it continues to do so!


Slaughterhouse-Five Book Club

Prisoners can participate in a community read. This season's pick is Slaughterhouse-Five. Your gift may help provide postage to mail out a copy of Vonnegut's classic novel to participants in the PE Book Club.


Prisoner Express Endowment

Gifts of any amount are welcome and appreciated. If you would like to discuss additional ways to make a substantial gift to Prisoner Express in support of our programming, please contact Gary Fine, Program Director at or 607-255-6486.