Paul Wach 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 work as a leadman in our prison’s printshop press area. The printshop and other correctional industries are programs intended to teach inmates a trade in the hopes that upon release they can find jobs and become productive members of society. Many inmates have never held a job and lack any work ethic. Others take a prison job merely to pass the time before they are released.

Being an inmate, myself and also being a leadman has provided me an opportunity to encourage those around me to realize the satisfaction one can receive from learning how to work. In the capacity of my position as leadman in the press area, it’s my responsibility to train newly hired inmates how to safely and effectively operate a printing press. I also coordinate job flow and help resolve any issues that may arise.

In many bases I act as an intermediary between inmates and correctional staff, and also between inmates and inmates.

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.