Law School-based Prison Letters Project seeks to amplify voices from prison

A team of Yale Law School affiliates headed by professor Emily Bazelon has compiled an online database of prison correspondence that so far includes around 100 letters.

Hannah Qu

11:30 pm, Sep 14, 2022

Staff Reporter

Yasmine Halmane, Photo Editor

After publishing a story on the exoneration of a prisoner named Yutico Briley, Yale Law School professor Emily Bazelon ’93 LAW ’00, began to receive letters from incarcerated people who had heard about her story. Now, Bazelon and several law school students are working to make sure the voices behind the bar are heard.

The Prison Letters Project was first launched by Bazelon in the fall of 2021 with the help from a group of Yale Law School students and Kayla Vinson, executive director of the Law and Racial Justice Center. The aim of the project is to amplify the letters Bazelon and other Yale Law School affiliates receive — most of which claim innocence or speak of excessive sentencing — by compiling them in a public database.

“The project is designed to amplify their voices.” Bazelon said. “We just had this idea that if people saw what we saw and heard the voices of the people writing, that might have an impact. I think ideally, journalists would pick up on some of these cases and write about them, or lawyers would volunteer to represent them, or people could volunteer as pen pals. But we also just had the idea that just putting the stories and the voices out there would be helpful.”

In order to compile their database, Bazelon’s team first developed a process to respond to the letters they received. The law school students send an intake form to the incarcerated writers asking for more information about their cases and permission to publish their information online. Once permission

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