Sometimes I feel like there are more websites dedicated to documenting citizen journalism than actual citizen journalism initiatives. Among them: J-Lab, Idea Lab, Media Shift, Press Think, MIT’s Center for Future Civic Media, Contentious, Online Journalism Review, Social Media, NewAssignment.Net, and a slew of personal blogs (like this one) that are often focused on that mysterious term with ever-shifting meaning, ‘citizen journalism.’

Among the lesser known sites (at least for the great majority of Americans) documenting stories about documenting stories is the Spanish-language PeriodismoCiudadano.com. Unlike most of the above-mentioned sites, PeriodismoCiudadano.com prides itself in covering citizen journalism projects outside of North America and Western Europe, including frequent looks at initiatives in China, Brazil, India, Chile, and Venzuela.

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And Jamaica. A month and a half ago they covered the Prison Diaries project of the S.E.T. Foundation, one of the ten projects we’re helping support at Rising Voices.

Later this month I’ll be visiting the Prison Diaries project in Kingston with Georgia. As you can imagine, they’ve had plenty of struggles convincing prison authorities there that the prisoners should be learning digital media production techniques, but within a couple months I’m confident that we’ll have a unique and meaningful glimpse into what it means to be in prison in Kingston, Jamaica. For now, I leave you with my translation of the original post by Paula Gonzalo, which you can read in Spanish at PeriodismoCiudadano.com.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve spoken of capacitation projects at a jail. The Youth Penitentiary Center in Barcelona participated in a digital literacy workshop in prison with the use of blogs.

set-fundation.jpgThe concept of prison diaries isn’t new. In 2001 National Public Radio in the United States recorded an intimate portrait or five prisoners behind bars using audio diaries. The successful British novelist Jeffrey Archer wrote a three volume memoir titled Diaries from Prison, which was later made into a play.

Prison Diaries, a grantee of the second round of funding of Rising Voices located in Jamaica, will use citizen media tools like blogs, video, and podcasts to share the diaries of prisoners, allowing all Jamaicans to discover the realities of Jamaica’s overcrowded prison system.

escuela-futuro.jpgIt all began in 1999 with the S.E.T. Foundation, a transformational program aimed at prisons which has successfully reduced the recidivism rate in Jamaica’s prisons. Through S.E.T. the prisoner becomes a constructive player who can significantly contribute to society while the community gains another citizen.

It leader, Kevin Wallen has been doing a notable job with motivational workshops inside the penal institutions. Public safety in Jamaica has deteriorated so much that it’s been dubbed the ‘homicide capital of the world.’

The purpose of the Prison Diaries project: “it tries to confront the veneration of ‘bad boys’ by training current prisoners how to blog and podcast.” The prisoners will generate their own content with the training that they have received thanks to the S.E.T. program. They will record and edit audio and video clips which will be posted on their blog so that the general public has access.

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