Greeting Cards for Wisconsin Prisoners

The United State incarcerates the highest percentage of its population of any country in the world. According to the New York Times, the USA has 5% of the world’s total population, but 25% of the world’s prisoners.  

Furthermore, Wisconsin’s incarceration rate for black men is the highest of any state in the country – 13% – which is double the national average.

Julia Kirchner wrote her doctoral dissertation about African American men in the Wisconsin prison system. Most of her data came from letters written to her by prisoners, many of whom still remain incarcerated. As a recent project in her Service Learning class, Building Community, she had her students create greeting cards for some of those prisoners as a way to bring some moments of brightness into the dreary walls of the prisons.

Wisconsin prisoners are not allowed to use cell phones. They are unable to access the Internet or to use social media. They only have two forms of communication with the outside world. They can make landline calls to friends and relatives – which they can only do if the people on the outside pre-pay large deposits to prison phone companies that charge exorbitant rates for each call. Prisoners can also communicate by paper letters through the US postal service. Many prisoners receive little or no correspondence, especially since few people on the outside use that form of communication on a regular basis any more.

Getting hand-made greeting cards from MIAD students will be a wonderful surprise for the prisoners, some of whom have been kept in solitary confinement for long periods of time. Students did a fantastic job in creating many kinds of cards with a combination of original artwork, poetry, jokes, and friendly letters. For students it was a low-key day in class at a busy time of the semester, but for the prisoners, getting the cards will be the highlight of their day. It is certain that many of the cards will be decorating cell walls and become an unexpected and cherished keepsake for lonely men who feel like the outside world has forgotten them.

By MIAD Adjunct Associate Professor, Julia Kirchner, PhD


The array of greeting cards created by students:


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