I hope you are keeping safe and finding some light and warmth as we head into the winter months.
You may have noticed that we didn’t announce a call-out for our collaborative November zine yet. That’s because we’ve been quietly working away on a project in the background, that I’m really excited to tell you about now!
Books Beyond Bars is a collective run entirely by volunteers. They send books and other educational materials to incarcerated LGBTQIA+ folks, free of charge, across the UK. We are really proud to be working with this organisation. I have known of them for years, through a similar company in the US that friends of mine work with. Earlier this year, I signed up to be a pen-pal through the Bent Bars project, where I heard more about Books Beyond Bars and I really fell in love with what they were doing.
LGBT prisoners face additional challenges, compared to non-LGBT people in prison. The criminal justice system has historically inflicted violence upon marginalised populations, like the queer community. Just Detention International reports that LGBT+ folks inside “are among the most vulnerable in the prison population.” There are many known incidents of ill-treatment and violence towards LGBT folks in prison at the hands of prison officials and other inmates, as documented in Amnesty International reports. With the current Covid-19 situation, people in prison are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, education and most forms of employment have been halted, and there are no face-to-face family visits taking place. Access to proper healthcare, while already severely restricted, has been reduced even further.
Additionally, with the recent election in the US, women’s rights, and LGBT rights forever being thrown into question, and the Gender Recognition Act reform being dropped in the UK, I felt like I needed to do something to engage with my community and offer support.
I am unable to go out and protest or give much financial aid, but what I can do is offer a creative safe space for folks to share their hopes and their fears, their anger, and their joy.
So Coin-Operated Press contacted the wonderful folks at Books Beyond Bars, and we are putting a call-out to people inside, all across the UK. We are asking them to send us writing, poetry, and art, and we will create a zine from their submissions.
We will be making this zine available to you in the Coin-Op Shop where we will set up solidarity payment. This means that you will be able to buy a copy for yourself and have a copy sent to someone inside!
Given that we will be receiving physical submissions from people inside, this zine will take a little longer than usual to put together. Make sure you follow us in all the usual places @CoinOpPress to keep up to date with this project!
Keep safe. Wear a mask.