Inside Time is the only national newspaper for prisoners. It was founded in 1991 by Eric McGraw, then director of the charity New Bridge. Following the riots at Strangeways Prison in Manchester in 2000, and Lord Justice Woolf’s report,
McGraw felt that prisons would be much improved by a
better communication system to keep those imprisoned in touch with events that affected them. I was involved from the beginning.
In February 2016, Erwin James, ex-prisoner, author and journalist took over from Eric as Inside Time’s editor.
Originally, we only published quarterly but for many years now we’ve come out monthly with a regular 54-64 pages. Recently we have included several supplements, including educational information, short stories and poetry by offenders. We have also published six volumes of collected poetry called Inside Poetry – Voices from Prison.The paper has always been free to all prisons and special hospitals, usually distributed through the libraries and it is entirely independent of any government body.
The contents include up to nine pages of prisoners’ letters, Newsround pages with both world and prison news, books, reviews, half a dozen pages of comment, often written by prisoners, legal pages including a question and answer page and contributions from the Prison and Probation Ombudsman, amongst other specialist writers. It also has several pages of quizzes and competitions.
I write a column every month reporting on prison events and initiatives as well as occasionally throwing in events from my own life – such as my visit to Robben Island, South Africa, where President Mandela was held for twenty seven years or a visit I made to the Brooklyn Federal Detention Centre, New York. In 2014 I reported on literacy programmes in HMP Doncaster and HMP Wormwood Scrubs and delivered a letter to Downing Street protesting against the restrictions on prisoners receiving books.
In 2019 I have written about programmes in prisons, including HMP Winchester, HMP Guys Marsh, HMP Pentonville, HMP Peterborough and HMP Send. I even managed to visit the Woman’s jail in Dubai.
Covid made our task harder since we could no longer go into prisons, but even more important that we found stories for the paper and printed their letters whey were usually locked up for 23 hours out of 24. Halfway through 2013 I’ve been in HMP Stafford, HMP Dovegate and HMP Wormwood Scrubs, and more planned. Now we have a website and an app and are slowly being allowed to put the paper into prison computers.
Anyone who would like to see the paper can visit it at insidetime.org, where they will also find all my own contributions.