The Washington Prison History Project aims to provide researchers, policy-makers, students, and others with primary sources into the history and ongoing reality of mass incarceration in Washington state and the broader Northwest. It provides documentary evidence of the robust civil society that exists within the state’s prisons and detention centers, as well as the complex linkages between prisoner organizing and the diverse communities that incarcerated people come from, return to, or are otherwise connected with. The project gathers documents of and testimonials from currently and formerly incarcerated people and other justice-involved communities.
The project aims to provide a fuller, public accounting of the human magnitude of mass incarceration in the region as part of understanding its effects across the nation. The project emphasizes currently and formerly incarcerated people, who are rarely considered as political actors or constituencies. Yet prisons house several longstanding organizations that emphasize peer education, personal transformation, and transformative justice. The project highlights their voices and experiences as a way to assess the history and consequences of punishment.