Assistant, Prison and Justice Writing

PEN America, an organization that stands at the intersection of literature and human rights, seeks a passionate, proactive, highly organized entry-level staff member to support the work of the Prison and Justice Writing department. This is a full-time role based at PEN America’s New York City office.

The role will support the Freewrite Project, an initiative to help writers in prison form incarcerated-led community writing groups—equipped with PEN America’s newly published book on crafting a writer’s life in prison, supported by a PEN America expert mentor, and in partnership with prison libraries. Working collaboratively with the Freewrite Project manager, as well as the Prison and Justice Writing program leadership, the Freewrite Project assistant will provide hands-on support to all aspects of the project’s work, including institutional relationship building with prison librarians across the country, large-scale book distribution, and arts and leadership curriculum building in tandem with a committee of prison writing program experts. This project will also include presentations, events, and other activities to deepen engagement of the creative community with the principles and outcomes of the project, and the book it is based on.

The assistant role is the logistical glue that holds the project in tune, and the primary responsibilities of this role are administrative in nature—with duties that include the maintenance of timely and accurate records, preparing books for mailing, drafting and overseeing internal and external communications, providing editorial and design support, and minimal support in maintaining ongoing project budgets. There will also be the opportunity to contribute creatively across the department, most notably with the Works of Justice editorial series.

Working within a highly collaborative setting, all members of the Prison and Justice Writing team gain hands-on experience in areas such as program development, partnership building, fundraising, budgeting, writing and editorial, social media, graphic design and more.

The successful candidate will have the opportunity to make a critical difference for a mission-driven program that is quickly evolving, responding to the challenges of mass incarceration, and amplifying the work of incarcerated writers. The ideal candidate will bring a working knowledge of mass incarceration in the United States, as well as previous involvement with the issue in a work or volunteer setting. Candidates representing diverse backgrounds—including those with justice involvement—are strongly encouraged to apply.


  • Provide administrative support for all programmatic processes for The Freewrite Project, working with the project manager to ensure project deliverables are met and well-executed
  • Keep detailed records of project expenses
  • Collaborate on deep research projects identifying stakeholders for direct and indirect project partnerships in the prison library and prison arts community
  • Support the significant and wide-reaching book distribution plan into prisons and beyond
  • Support and take notes for bi-monthly meetings of a curriculum design working group to co-develop training and evaluative processes for the project
  • Provide coordination between prison librarians and incarcerated leaders and support the formation of independent writing collectives
  • Support in social media and writing and editing project-related content for the Works of Justice newsletter/blog


This is an entry-level position ideal for a recent college graduate, or candidate with one year of experience in a nonprofit or comparable field.

  • Must have a passion for PEN America’s mission to defend free expression at the intersection of literature and human rights, and more specifically, to develop and amplify the work of writers in prison, and writers confronting mass incarceration
  • Detail-oriented with a proven track record of successful project management and the ability to work independently and efficiently in solving problems within a fast-paced and deadline-driven environment
  • Superior organizational skills with ability to successfully manage multiple deadlines and projects at any given time
  • Ability to work quickly and adapt to new priorities
  • Ability to exercise appropriate level of professionalism and discretion when dealing with information of a highly confidential nature
  • Excellent written communication skills
  • Ability to research, compile, and summarize data for reports
  • Experience with Microsoft Office Suite and G Suite

Salary and Benefits: PEN America offers competitive compensation and benefits, commensurate with experience.

To Apply:

Please submit a cover letter, resume, one – two writing samples (you might consider one professional and one creative), and the contact information for three references. Please submit the entire application to [email protected] using “Assistant, Prison and Justice Writing” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Assistant, Prison and Justice Writing – Jane Doe”). Only completed applications will be reviewed, and only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.

PEN America is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate in its hiring practices, and in order to build the strongest possible workforce, actively seeks a diverse applicant pool.

No phone calls, please.

About PEN America:

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect free expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.