An overnight idea led Tracy Brumfield to create RISE, a monthly newspaper printed for and written by inmates in Cincinnati jails. The idea? Share information on everything from homeless shelters to treatment facilities to help equip inmates with knowledge they’ll need to navigate a post-release world and ultimately combat the region’s heroin epidemic and recidivism rates—all from inside the jailhouse walls. Brumfield, a former addict and inmate, knows the experience firsthand and says the paper serves as an important resource to a population that needs it the most.
How did you decide on using a newspaper as your format? The reality is that in jail the printed medium is the only way to get to 1,400 people. They don’t have access to digital media, so they can’t get online. They don’t even have access to the local news. Their access to any kind of news or information is extremely limited.
How do you hope RISE impacts this community? It sounds like a really big thing, but the reality is we can reduce recidivism if we can have, in some way, an impact on the lives of those individuals who are currently sitting in the jail and who don’t know where to go for help, who want help, who are ready for help.
In the paper’s first issue you discussed your personal experience with addiction and incarceration, moving from hopelessness to hopefulness. How do you hold onto that personally while instilling it in others? Feeling hopeless felt like feeling trapped without choices. Moving into hopefulness meant, with each step and each accomplishment, I felt more inspired and strengthened to go to the next one. It is one step at a time. I think it’s important to be transparent. In every issue I talk about that topic from my lens and my perspective.
What can people do to help combat these issues? I think it’s naive to say that most informed adults aren’t aware that we have an epidemic going on and that, if it continues to spread, it will affect them—whether it be directly or indirectly. So to familiarize themselves with their community and what’s available in their community. Just even learning is giving back.
For more, go to riseupnews.org