It comes out weekly and includes essays, poems and art done by young people in prison (Sanders 2004). The staff who act as their support group, and who give them workshops, collect writings and artwork from regional areas including halls in Northern California, Arizona, New York, British Columbia and Virginia and publish them. Readership of The Beat Within is primarily composed of the kids who produce them, and each issue would carry a page called "The Beat Without," featuring an essay of a former juvenile hall detainee (Martin 2005).
"The 1996 death of Tupac Shakur, an iconic rapper and the militant son of a Black Panther, who himself had been in prison, changed everything. His students mourned his death in such a powerful way that Inocencio [co-founder of Beat] felt their work needed to be shared. 'I had to put it out there,' he said. 'It was urgent.' Just like that, one man's death initiated a lifeline for others. The premiere of the Beat Within was a thin but powerful eulogy for Tupac."(Sanders 2004).
Now, the magazine runs more than a hundred pages to each issue and circulation has expanded to include interest groups especially those on welfare. Autobiographical in nature, the writings and artwork are believed to give the inmates something to start with (Ibid).
A reading of the stories would show a continuum of emotional standing from acceptance of fate and a more relaxed view of life with readiness to change, to an understanding of the past as some childish accident or inevitable part of growing up, to a resigned misgiving about a world and its thinking not yet properly understanding them. The last is expressed by Pure Dragon, a 7 year old boy who left China for America (Parr 1999) -
"When I think back on it, it all seems like a bad dream that has no future in it. But this ain't no dream, this is my life. If I keep getting caught up in this system, I already know how my future would be, but I don't want that future. I would like to go back to school, back to my family, to find me a job. I think the purpose of the hall is to change us one way or another. They have programs, counselors to talk to us, but they don't know what we're going through, so it is not helping us. Maybe if I stayed in China, a lot of things wouldn't have happened to me."
As children trace back their steps and record past reality, the world outside (the staff primarily working on them) are given windows into their thinking and their emotional health whether much work needs to be done yet or one is ready to go it alone. The staff, as they work with the children acting as shock absorbers, become part of the lives of their wards, and through their perspective the children weigh the world. Later on, Sanders (2004) was to say, "The core staff of The Beat Within is an eclectic group of journalists, ex- convicts, graduate students and youth advocates."
The stories are outrightly therapeutic for the children, allowing them release of the past. Their works are presented sometimes are slices of their lives (a paragraph or two) as apparently most, if not all, of them could sustain the length of stories normally required in magazine writing. These are embedded with articles from the staff or management generously supporting these bits of