Reginald Stephens was awarded an Honorable Mention in Nonfiction Essay in the 2022 Prison Writing Contest.

Every year, hundreds of imprisoned people from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population.


I find myself in the inevitable position of being stranded on the sidelines of history at a time when social justice seems to be moving upstream in this watershed period. The stresses of being stationary are intensified by the ‘end of days’ like atmosphere in America. The Corona Virus has sickened and killed millions of people and slowed economies to fractions of their former selves, putting tens of millions of people out of work. Added to this are racial tensions set ablaze by the hot, dry winds of racial animus, blowing utterances into the culture and politics, belching out hate speech like some Freudian slip. The lynching of George Floyd and countless others at the hands of the police sits on the shoulders of my conscious, haunting the very mention of race and class. Black Lives Matter has gained a generalized legitimacy, relevance and respect in America and abroad and is so much more than the protestations of American troubles in the monument. 2020 is a pivotal time, punctuating with exclamation, the human narrative.

To finish reading this, as well as the works of all other contributors, purchase Variations on an Undisclosed Location: 2022 Prison Writing Awards Anthology here.