Behind the Bars was founded by CJ Walters. CJ worked as an English teacher in Taiwan for 8 years. He has written for VICE News, covering Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement, as well as been published in newpapers and magazines both on and offline. In 2018 he won a Koestler Award for one of his short stories.
CJ was arrested at 19 years old and charged with selling a small amount of cannabis and magic mushrooms to his friends, although they were only buying it together. He served 2 months in prison in Taiwan and then 7 years on bail, fighting the case. The police asked for a 77 year sentence and the prosecutor at one point even suggested the death penalty. CJ and his team uncovered a lack of warrants and deliberate mistranslation of key evidence which should have exonerated him, but didn’t. This was a rude awakening for him to the importance of a fair and transparent legal system – and to the injustices that occur without one. In the end CJ received a 4 year and 5 month sentence and was repatriated back to the United Kingdom.
CJ served his sentence in both closed and open prisons. He was elected leader of the Prison Council and had great success in the role. It was then that he came up with the idea for Behind the Bars.