Every year, hundreds of imprisoned writers 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. Manuscripts come to the Prison Writing Program in a variety of forms: Some are handwritten, some are typed, some are written in the margins of legal documents. Prizes of $250, $150, $100, and $25 are awarded for first, second, third place, and honorable mention, respectively, in each of the following categories:


First Place

Romeo Wm. Bartley, “In My Bedroom”

Second Place

J.L. Wise, Jr., “No Brownstones, Just Alleyways & Corner Pockets Full”

Third Place

William Eric Waters, “Chronicling Sing Sing Prison”


Honorable Mentions

David Wood, “The Zen of Razorwire”

Danny A. Witten, “Me, Hitler, and the Trail of Tears”

Mark Read, “Over the Lounge on First Avenue”



First Place

Robert Kelsey, “Suicide: A Suitable Fifty Dollar Myth”

Second Place

Susan Rosenberg, “Positive Woman”

Third Place

Paul St. John, “Behind the Mirror’s Face”


Honorable Mentions

O’Neil Stough, “Deliberate Indifference”

Jackie Ruzas, “Ryan’s Ryse”

Jerry R. Mulliken, Jr., “A Moment in Time”



Award Winner

Susan Rosenberg, “The Airlift”



First Place (tie)

Victor Hassine, “My Friend Howard”

Stuart Dawson, “Cowboys Don’t Really Die”

Third Place

Russell T. Kinkade, “The Schizophrenic God”


Honorable Mentions

Charles P. Norman, “The National Urban League”

Jon M. Taylor, “Just Us”

Vanessa Fletcher, “Inside the Heart and Mind”

Jan Joseph Jackson, “Confessions of Johnny Carter”

Dennis J. Dechaine, “Prison As Ecoptopia”



First Place

David Wood, “Listen to the River”

Second Place

Jeff Allenzy, “Another Way”

Third Place

Charles P. Norman, “Hang, Man”


Honorable Mentions

Randolph Bass, “Bums”

Stephen Wayne Anderson, “The Hearing”

Stephen Fraley, “Choices”

William Eric Waters, “The Homecoming”