Access in Prison Initiative - JSTOR


The JSTOR digital library enables incarcerated people to access scholarly materials and texts online in more than 1,000 U.S. prisons across all 50 U.S. states. Learners use JSTOR resources for higher education, pursuit of GEDs or Adult Basic Education, or for personal interests in improving their literacy and educational attainment.

In 2022, the nonprofit organization Ithaka (JSTOR's parent organization) implemented the first direct-access online version of JSTOR for incarcerated learners, providing access to journal articles, open-access content, and primary sources and data sets for research purposes. The online version (available on terminals and tablets) includes all the content available to college students outside of prison excluding social media functions and external hyperlinks in order to be deemed secure for correctional use. In some facilities, there are additional restrictions such as approval permissions held by administrators to allow or deny certain content such as maps of local areas that could pose security risks.

In 2024, JSTOR launched a 3-year project with the support of the Mellon Foundation to scale access to JSTOR to all higher education-in-prison (HEP) programs in the U.S. The project provides both offline and direct access solutions in line with programmatic and security requirements with the goal of making the learner experience as close as possible to that of their peers outside the justice system.

Key activities of the new project:

  • Add all US HEP Programs to JSTOR's Access Initiative, eliminating licensing costs to access JSTOR collections.
  • Survey HEP programs to assess the need for and ability to implement both solutions.
  • Scale access to both offline and direct access resources, working with departments of corrections and HEP programs.
  • Enhance offline and direct access solutions to include refinements to media review system; and addition of encrypted, in-copyright full text to the offline solution.
  • Ensure learners are able to use JSTOR and other library resources effectively by creating materials to support learning digital skills and research methods, and explore ways to effectively implement them by working with the Clark College Education Department in Washington that has designed a research module using JSTOR for its college’s accredited Peer Tutor Program.
  • Develop/implement a plan to sustain and support this program of access.


JSTOR's digital collections are used in more than 13,000 schools, universities, and institutions around the world. JSTOR includes:

  • Collections of peer-reviewed scholarly journals, respected literary journals, academic monographs, research reports, and primary sources from libraries’ special collections and archives--providing access to more than 12 million journal articlesbooksimages, and primary sources in 75 disciplines.
  • Primary sources of more than 2 million artifacts, specimens, and documents across four collections: Global Plants19th Century British PamphletsStruggles for Freedom: Southern Africa, and World Heritage Sites: Africa. J
  • A research and teaching platform.
  • Collaboration with the academic community to help libraries connect learners and faculty to content while lowering costs and increasing shelf space, provide independent researchers with free and low-cost access to scholarship, and help publishers reach new audiences and preserve their content for future generations.

JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a nonprofit organization that helps the academic community use digital technologies to preserve the scholarly record and to advance research and teaching in sustainable ways. ITHAKA also includes Artstor,Ithaka S+R, and Portico.

This project is part of ITHAKA’s Improving Higher Education in Prisons initiative, a series of work to support justice-impacted individuals, empowering them to improve their lives by increasing access to high quality educational resources.


JSTOR has provided offline access to its collections for students in higher education in prisons since 2007.  Since 2019, JSTOR offered two pilot programs:

Providing a freely available library of quality educational content from the nonprofit organization ITHAKA was posited to provide an option to the growing number for-profit education and technology solutions in prison —with the goals of lowering the cost and improving the outcomes and experience of education in prisons.


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