Manager, The Freewrite Project, Prison and Justice Writing

PEN America seeks a creative, energetic, and results-oriented manager with expertise in issues surrounding mass incarceration to launch The Freewrite Project, an important new creative program for incarcerated writers. This role will also join in expanding the work of our Prison and Justice Writing department, including by engaging new partners and supporters and building linkage with other PEN America programs. This is a full-time position based at PEN America’s New York City office.

The Freewrite Project will support the self-determination of writers in prison to form incarcerated-led community writing groups—equipped with PEN America’s new book, The Sentences That Creates Us: Crafting A Writer’s Life in Prison (Haymarket Books, January 2022), supported by a PEN America expert mentor, and in partnership with prison libraries. Working collaboratively with the Director and Deputy Director of Prison and Justice Writing, the Freewrite Project manager will develop and deliver a wide-reaching and multi-stage program that involves research, institutional relationship building with prison librarians across the country, and large-scale book distribution and arts and leadership curriculum building in tandem with a committee of prison writing program experts. This project will 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 successful candidate will have capacity to conceptualize, launch, and ensure the effective execution of The Freewrite Project.  This will include working with a program assistant to advance extensive book distribution into prisons through individuals and organizations for 75,000 copies of The Sentences That Create Us; facilitating a curriculum design group with multiple stakeholders; identifying appropriate partners and launch prison-based writing collectives in prisons nationally; and training and supervising PEN America pedagogical facilitation mentors. This position may require limited travel in the United States.

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 within the existing Prison Writing Mentor program; contributing content to the Works of Justice editorial project; linking the Freewrite Project groups with knowledge of the Prison Writing Awards; facilitating active writers to the Incarcerated Writers Bureau; and presenting to the Writing For Justice Fellowship program. The manager will also work cross-departmentally within the larger organization as needed, most specifically leveraging the expertise of our Free Expression program in addressing book bans in prisons.

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 will benefit from some level of familiarity in interfacing with actors in the Department of Corrections or Bureau of Prisons and must hold a strong awareness of the challenges inherent in working through the walls. Experience facilitating arts programming in a prison or reentry setting, and familiarity with the larger literary landscape and criminal justice reform/abolition community is expected. 

Candidates representing diverse backgrounds—with a special emphasis on those with justice involvement—are strongly encouraged to apply.


  • Manage all programmatic processes for The Freewrite Project
  • Collaborate on deep research projects identifying stakeholders for direct and indirect project partnerships in the prison library and prison arts community and build introductory relationships with key stakeholders
  • Support the continuation of a developed wide-reaching book distribution plan into prisons and beyond
  • Plan, execute, and facilitate bi-monthly meetings of a curriculum design working group to co-develop training and evaluative processes for the project
  • Build strong relationships with prison librarians and incarcerated leaders and support the formation of independent writing collectives
  • Train and manage PEN America pedagogical/facilitation mentors
  • Collaborate on design of—and co-lead as needed—curriculum trainings, in person and digitally
  • Support in social media and writing and editing project-related content for the Works of Justice newsletter/blog
  • Hands on support with grant proposals and report copy related to the project


  • Experience 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
  • Experience in managing community programs and credentials and networks within the literary community, as well as the criminal justice reform/abolition space
  • Demonstrated capabilities in successfully delivering the full range of program management requirements, from blank-slate start-up to celebrated results
  • Ability to work quickly and creatively on multiple fronts, both collaboratively and taking independent responsibility
  • Digital skills, including in developing webpages, online applications, and social media outreach
  • The ability to develop strategic vision as well as drill down to ensure success at granular levels of implementation
  • Demonstrated ability to develop new project concepts and contribute to fundraising
  • Organized work style, with the ability to thrive in a fast-moving work environment
  • A reputation for innovation and the ability to crack the code to solve challenges
  • Excellent written and oral presentation skills

Salary and Benefits: PEN America 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. Please submit the entire application to [email protected]. Please use “Manager, The Freewrite Project” and your name as the subject of your email (for example, “Manager, The Freewrite Project – 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.