Well, in short, I was just beginning to interact with members of the math community. I was writing professor Luisella Caire of Italy at the time, and she would send books and journals to help me in my studies, but the bulk of the books were rejected coming into the prison. This happened so much! The final straw came when a whole box of books was rejected. So I got to thinking, and an idea struck me about starting a mathematics program designed to motivate personal growth through the study and exploration of mathematics. 

I wrote Luisella and we bounced ideas across the ocean. Not long after, we came up with some good ideas. What if we could provide a place for other prisoners to nurture their love for mathematics? What if we could try new ways of teaching, learning that was previously out of our reach? Having such a diverse pool of mathematical maturity in a prison, we had to think outside of the box completely! We would have peer discussions and speeches on history and philosophy of math, teaching about the beauty of mathematics rather than focusing on one topic. But in lieu of everything else we would have a library of our own, full of all of those rejected books!

When the time came to launch the initial run of the program, I hadn’t really even thought on a name. But when the prison staff asked me, “What’s the name?” as he typed the final sequence of keys before my program became reality, I was caught off guard. “Do I have to give you a name right now?” He replies with “Yep.. right now.” Before I even had a chance to think, I said the first thing that came out of my mind, “The Prison Mathematics Project!” As soon as I said it, it felt right. So with a satisfied grunt and a “huh, that’s good”. The last bit of the sequence of typeset was shot off through some wires and our program was born.

The above occurred in 2014-2015. The PMP is now a national entity. Hope you enjoyed the little history! prisonmathproject.org