How to Write for Life Inside the Marshall Project

What Makes a Life Inside Trial?

Life Inside essays are 1,000-1,400 word non-fiction articles about your personal experiences with the criminal justice system. We want slices of life rather than complete autobiographies. Focus on telling a good story – a story that is vivid, surprising, informative, or interesting to a reader who may not share your frame of reference. Our contributors include people currently or formerly incarcerated, people on parole or probation, lawyers, teachers, medical personnel, people with relatives in the system, corrections officers, police officers, social workers, judges, victims of crime and defenders. .

What don’t you post in Life Inside?

We do not publish poetry, fiction, letters to the editor, commentary, or visual art without accompanying essays or plays under pseudonyms. Additionally, we do not publish allegations of innocence, provide legal aid, or advertise advocacy campaigns.

How can I send you a Life Inside trial?

Before telling you where to send your work, we want to let you know this: we do our best to answer all mail, but we cannot answer everyone. Follow these guidelines:

  • The best way to submit work to us is to send a quick introductory note and a draft of the essay you would like us to publish. We don’t need extras like photo collages, drawings or poetry. Please save your time and stamps.

  • Sometimes people ask us for feedback on their ideas, but we need to assess your writing style. The best indicator of your writing style is a draft of the essay you want us to publish.

  • We understand that most incarcerated people do not have access to email. But if you have it, please use it. Your message can come directly from you or from someone you trust. Our email address is [email protected]

  • Our mailing address is:

    Life Inside
    The Marshall Project
    156 West 56th Street, Suite 701
    New York, NY 10019 
  • If you can type your essay, do it. This will make it much faster and easier to scan your work into our content management systems.

Where and when are Life Inside essays published?

Plays from Life Inside appear at We typically post them to the website on Fridays at 6:00 a.m. EST. We also email them to newsletter subscribers on Friday afternoons. If we partner with another media outlet, your article will also appear on their website and/or pages. We may also republish your article at a later date. Sign up for the Life Inside newsletter here:

Do you pay the writers?

In most cases, we offer a small fee of $100 for essays people write.

What does the editing process look like?

If we accept your article, we make edits to ensure the writing is attractive and clear. A publisher will communicate with you directly or through a trusted person such as a relative, friend, teacher or volunteer. We use prearranged prison courier services, email, phone calls and letters.

Do you check the essays?

Yes. A fact checker may contact you for clarification and/or use court records, reliable media reports, and comments from prison officers who deal with the media.

Should I use my name?

Yes. We do not publish anonymous essays or fake names.

How do you create the bios at the end of each play?

We ask our writers to send us two to three lines that describe who they are and what they’ve accomplished. We also ask them to include why they are currently incarcerated if that information is not in the article.

Why do you publish why people are currently serving time?

We publish why someone is currently incarcerated because, as journalists, we need to be transparent with our readers. We are aware of the criticism of this practice — that it reduces writers to their criminal convictions. But readers can easily get this information from corrections websites and news articles anyway. These sources do not offer the context that an essay provides.

What if I don’t hear from you?

We do our best to respond to every submission, but due to the high volume of mail we receive, we cannot guarantee this.

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