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Securus Wipes Out Months of Washington Prisoners’ Writing—Again

Writers are intimately familiar with the effort it takes to organize ideas and direct them through a keyboard into text. Most have the comfort of knowing their draft work waits for them to take the next step. But incarcerated writers do not have that comfort.

In November 2023, Christopher Blackwell and other writers serving time at Washington Correctional Center lost their work for the third time that year because of a technical glitch by prison telecom giant Securus. While those on the outside can restore deleted files or easily consult information used to write a piece, the sole repository for the work of these incarcerated writers was the “drafts” folder on Securus tablets provided by the state Department of Corrections (DOC) that mysteriously and suddenly emptied itself.

Unlike typical computers, these tablets lack basic file-saving capabilities, forcing writers to rely on the platform’s limited features. The sudden deletion resulted in the loss of hundreds of hours of writing. Blackwell described the pain of losing entire drafts and starting over. Fellow prisoner Darrell Jackson lamented the emotional cost of rewriting pieces about sensitive topics like trauma and structural racism.

Securus offered two free e-stamps as compensation—a meager sum amounting to less than $1. That was an insult to prisoner Antoine Davis, who lost chapters of his book manuscript. The disruption suffered by Blackwell, Jackson and Davis was not a one-off, either. In 2021, a system update pushed out by Securus subsidiary JPay also resulted in widespread loss of drafts stored on tablets in email draft folders. California prisoners experienced the same problem in 2022 when the state prison system transitioned to a new telecom vendor.

When asked for solutions, Securus offered vague promises to consider “alternative options” with DOC, while a DOC spokesperson simply directed inquiries to Securus. This lack of accountability left prisoner Raymond Williams feeling invisible and unheard. Forced to completely rebuild his portfolio after losing manuscripts yet again, Williams said the message was clear for prisoners: “Losing my drafts for the third time this year is a reminder that I am not a person in the eyes of Securus and the Washington Department of Corrections.”


Source: The Appeal