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[VIRTUAL] In Fellowship: An Evening with the 2019-2020 Writing for Justice Fellows


On the evening of January 14, join us in launching our third annual 2021 Writing for Justice Fellowship, which commissions writers to develop written works of lasting merit that illuminate critical issues related to mass incarceration. Listen in on an intimate and stimulating dialogue as the 2019-2020 fellows share about their experience in the program, read from their impactful projects, and celebrate their impressive accomplishments in the fields of literature and criminal justice. The event will be moderated by Caits Meissner, director of PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing Program.

Don’t forget to bring your questions to the live Q&A! With our 2021 fellowship opening on January 15, this event will also serve as an informative session for potential applicants. To learn more about the fellowship, and how to apply, visit the Writing for Justice Fellowship page.

Meet the participating cohort, and get a sneak peek of their fellowship projects below.

2019–2020 Fellows and Their Projects

Arthur Longworth headshotArthur Longworth

Monroe, Washington
Through the voice of a state-raised prisoner, Arthur Longworth worked on Journal of a State-Raised Prisoner in the Age of Mass Incarceration, a book-length compilation of creative nonfiction essays that elucidates the foster-care-to-prison pipeline.

Cleyvis Natera headshotCleyvis Natera

Montclair, New Jersey
Cleyvis Natera’s personal essay illuminates mass incarceration’s painful impact on members of an Afro-Dominican immigrant family and their surrounding community through the story of her own brother’s arrest for minor offenses and subsequent deportation.

C.T. Mexica headshotC.T. Mexica

Phoenix, Arizona
C.T. Mexica worked on 18 With a Bullet: Or, With Love & Respect, a nonfiction memoir of intergenerational incarceration, anchored in the author’s incarceration from the age of 13 to 21 for acts of mutual violence committed against other bonded males, and transformation to a postdoctoral researcher and emerging writer.

J.D. Mathes headshotJ.D. Mathes

Tehachapi, California
J.D. Mathes worked on In Strange Company, a novel that reveals a free nation’s dark impulse toward punishing the mentally ill and the addicted, told through the story of a young man struggling with the trauma of prison to find peace, grace, and humanity through learning music.

Jonah Mixon-Webster headshotJonah Mixon-Webster

Flint, Michigan
Jonah Mixon-Webster created Protocol, an immersive two-fold documentary poetics project. The full-length hybrid manuscript and digital archive aims to unpack—through dashcam footage, guerrilla audio recordings, arrest documents, and lyrical narration—the procedural relations between police officers and civilians in 21st century America.

Justine van der Leun headshotJustine van der Leun

Brooklyn, New York
Justine van der Leun combined narrative journalism, primary data collection and analysis, and investigative techniques to report on the structural, historic, cultural, and legal forces behind the criminalization of women’s defense and survival from abuse.

Sterling Cunio headshotSterling Cunio

Salem, Oregon
Sterling Cunio wrote, and is in production on Austin’s Echo, a cross-time dramatic dialogue between Austin Reed—who in the 1830s was the first African American to write a memoir about his incarceration—and a 21st-century prisoner. The similarities of prison dynamics, reform debates, and social issues are compared through poetic narration, theatrical elements, and music to demonstrate how prison is virtually the same after 185 years.

Vivian Nixon headshotVivian D. Nixon

New York, New York
Vivian D. Nixon worked on a book-length memoir chronicling her passage from a stable suburban home through phases of mental illness, addiction, incarceration, and reinvention. The work exposes the complex individual and structural drivers of mass criminalization through the lens of race and gender.