I found an unusual blog by chance: NÂgons mamma – nÂgons dotter (that’s Swedish for “Someone’s mother – someone’s daughter”), written by a woman in jail. She writes her blog posts in letters to her daughter, who posts them to the blog for her. Each post is titled “Mamma bloggar fr fengslet” (Mum blogs from jail) followed by the name of the jail she’s in and the number of the post. It’s very thoroughly done – the dates are “Mammas senaste blogg ‰r daterad den 20 Januari 2007;” (“Mum’s latest blog is dated January 20 2007”) and comments are left by, for instance, “din brors tjei” (“your brother’s girl”).

This is, I think, not simply an interesting blog to read but another example of the new stories we hear through blogs. Yes, a newspaper might have printed letters from a jail, and books have been published by people who have spent time in jail, but this directness is different: not only do we readers experience the distance to this woman as far less than if we read her words in a newspaper or a book, but this communication is important for her, and it seems, for her family.

And perhaps the implications are greater too. She writes how her letters to her daughter have been opened and read by the wardens. She’s upset by this – she agrees that it’s reasonable that letters to an inmate be opened, though she doesn’t agree that they should be read. But what is the reason for reading letters from an inmate? Shouldn’t inmates in jail have freedom of speech, as others do? Are her letters being read because the wardens know that parts of them are being posted to a blog?

Interesting questions, I think.

5 thoughts on “blogging behind bars

  1. torill

    She’s in a Panopticon, it’s part of the punishment, everything she does can be seen. Foucault, remember?

    As for letters from inmates being read, yes, I can see that it is upsetting. Still, I think this is supposed to keep the contact to old criminal activities to a minimum. I have no idea if it actually works. And yes, it can probably be used aggressively to keep criticism of the system from surfacing.

    It is however consistent with a certain way of punishing criminals. What we need to ask ourselves is how punishment works in our society. And what rights she has? Does she have the right to vote? I haven’t checked, really, but in some places she probably does not. Her constitutional rights are already compromised by her status as a convict. It is all part of the stigma, the punishment and a consequence of setting yourself outside of the law. Not an easy field to enter to discuss freedom of speech.

  2. Jill

    I hadn’t really thought about prisoner’s right. I have no idea whether they have the right to vote. And yes indeed – so many other rights have been lost that perhaps freedom of speech becomes almost irrelevant? Does the possiblity of blogging from jail (through letters) actually make freedom of speech relevant for the first time?

  3. Ali

    I am prepared to be wrong, but I thought the Panopticon was Jeremy Bentham (although doubtless Foucault also addresses the issue).

    This is interesting from the point of view of privilege however. There is a long history of individuals (mostly radicals) having their rights to pen and paper removed from them. Writing is clearly seen as an important privilege to prison authorities, regardless of the potential for the individual to criticize the system (at times this would seem to be the point, as it can be a means to prove recidivism). So the blog is a privilege that can be removed for any number of reasons.

    Just a few thoughts, not particularly coherent…

  4. torill

    Not for the first time. Imagine the number of jailed political dissidents, and you know this has been and will continue to be a sensitive issue.

    As for Foucault and Bentham – I was thinking of Michel Foucault: Discipline and Punish, the Birth of the Prison, and Foucault refers to Bentham. Bentham designed the prison structure, Foucault discusses the meaning of the panopticon in the development of punishment.

  5. […] How about this Swedish woman who blogs while in jail? Here’s my blog post about her blog. […]

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