Manager, Mentorship and Community Engagement, Prison and Justice Writing

PEN America seeks a creative, energetic, and results-oriented program manager with expertise in issues surrounding mass incarceration to support, shape and further the work of our Prison Writing Mentor Program on a national scale. A nonprofit organization working at the intersection of literature and human rights, PEN America has for more than four decades supported, honored and brought to new audiences writers who are incarcerated. This is a full-time position based at PEN America’s New York City headquarters and reports to the deputy director, prison and justice writing program.

PEN America’s Prison Writing Mentor Program involves collaborations by more than 120 writers with counterparts who are incarcerated working toward individualized literary goals and cultivating an engaged literary community through and behind the walls. 

The manager of mentorship and community engagement will play a central role in thoughtfully interfacing with the mentor community and program participants as well as interns and volunteers who sustain our initiative. These writers participate in one on one mentorship through the physical mail and/or a combination of prison email systems. 

The successful candidate will hold the capacity, determination and vision to conceptualize, launch, and ensure the effective execution of the Prison Writing Mentor Program. The manager will be a consistent point of contact for the professional writer volunteers working with 120 incarcerated mentees around the country. The manager will be instrumental in implementing innovative and flexible digital methods of community cultivation, engagement, conversation and celebration among mentor volunteers. The manager will help coordinate logistics for instituting a mentorship prize, and locate additional methods of uplifting and recognizing the volunteer efforts. 

Through these focus areas, the manager will also have the opportunity to help develop programmatic marketing materials, coordinate group meetings, and screen and match volunteers to appropriate mentorship pairings.

Working closely with the program leadership, the manager also will help create a comprehensive evaluative process for the mentor program, and support the expansion of mentor training materials, including a more robust toolkit, curriculum map and scheduling ongoing opportunities for professional development. With these tools, the manager will help vision and implement community partnerships in PEN America chapter cities and beyond by creating training materials and systems of guidance for prison writing mentorship programs to flourish within communities nationwide. The right candidate will bring an enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit to the task, helping shape thought leadership in ethical methods of being in literary community through the walls.

This role will also be responsible for integrating the work under this program with the broader approach of PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing department, including, for example, making connections across new burgeoning initiatives and contributing content to the Works of Justice editorial project. 

The ideal candidate will bring a working knowledge of mass incarceration in the United States, as well as significant previous involvement with the issue in a work or volunteer setting. Experience facilitating arts programming in a prison or reentry setting, and familiarity with the larger literary landscape and criminal justice reform community is expected. We welcome and encourage candidates with justice involvement to apply.


  • Manage the efficient, responsive, and thoughtful execution of the Prison Writing Mentor Program, including establishing systems that allow participants to be addressed in a timely and complete manner across a variety of logistical challenges pertaining to prison environment
  • Retool e-training processes and spark opportunities to cultivate conversation with and deeper support for mentors, as well as improve mentee experience through supporting documents and documentation
  • Develop resources for volunteers including training materials, curriculum maps and a series of digital professional development opportunities
  • Cultivate the mentor community to grow in relationship to one another via online and digital engagement strategies, as well as opportunities for celebration and uplifting accomplishments within the program
  • Help identify and match new mentor/mentee pairings
  • Monitor mentor pairings, reaching out to re-engage mentorships that have stagnated
  • Plan and execute evaluative processes for the mentor program experience, including synthesizing and analyzing results from the developed tools
  • Support administration of the annual mentorship prize
  • Support public-facing aspects of our work, such as blog posts and event planning, particularly aspects that presence the work of our volunteers and mentors
  • Help envision and execute innovative new programs under the mentor program umbrella
  • Grow a “training and toolkit” arm of the program to offer guidance and partnership to local communities looking to start their own prison writing programs, with special emphasis on PEN America chapter cities where possible
  • Collaborate cross-department on initiatives such as National Poetry Writing Month and National Novel Writing Month, in tandem with Editorial Senior Manager and The Freewrite Project Senior Managers.

All PEN America staff are considered to be stakeholders in the development of our shared organization. As such, staff play a role in varied activities within the workplace as part of their job responsibilities. These may include committees or task forces to work on office issues, diversity and inclusion, strategy projects, training or other initiatives.


  • Understanding of issues surrounding mass incarceration and in prison-related programs, and a commitment to work at the intersection of these areas with free expression, literary culture, and social justice
  • Ability and willingness to engage flexibly with difficult and confronting issues that can arise in the realm of mass incarceration/prison work
  • Openness to the administrative tasks required of working through the walls with people in prison, such as overseeing mail teams
  • Strong abilities in writing, and interest in literature
  • Prior experience in an office environment is preferred
  • Leadership experience leading teams of volunteers, students or peers
  • Proficiency in GoogleDocs, Outlook, Word, and Excel
  • Team-oriented, but self motivated and comfortable working independently to meet deadlines
  • Expertise in issues surrounding mass incarceration and in prison-related programs and a commitment to work at the intersection of these areas with free expression, literary culture, and social justice

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

To Apply:

Please submit a cover letter, resume, unedited writing sample, and the contact information for three references. Submit the entire application to Please use “Manager, Mentorship & Community Engagement” with your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Manager, Mentorship & Community Engagement – Jane Doe”). Only complete 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.