In the last 20 years, the prison population in America has become the largest in the world. Despite women only comprising 8.7% of the total prison population in 2011, the number of women incarcerated increased by 646% between 1980 and 2010; 1.5 times the rate of their male counterparts, and have now come to represent one third of the total female prison population worldwide.

Yet despite this adversity, and in some ways as a direct response to it, women in prison have been creating zines from behind prison walls for over a century. These unique works of art and literature represent the forgotten and ignored world of female incarceration and offer profound insights into what it was and still is like to be a woman incarcerated in the United States.

This website documents the ongoing research into Women’s Prison Zines in the USA by PhD student Olivia Wright at The University of Nottingham. Everything on this website is subject to copyright.

References and more information:

Jessica Pishko, “A History of Women’s Prisons”, Jstor Daily (2015),

Nina Bahadur, “The U.S. Is Home To Nearly One-Third Of The World’s Female Prisoners”, The Huffington Post, Oct 1st 2014,

Image: For the Women’s House by Faith Ringgold, 1971.