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

Judith Clark, “Write a Poem That Makes No Sense”

Second Place

Delores Hornick, “You Wanted To Be My Protector”

Third Place

John Rich, Burger and Fries


Honorable Mentions

Anthony Ross, “Only a Few Will Really Understand”

James Knight-Calle, “An Industrial Love Song”

Chet Shephard, Jr., “Prison”

Emerson Stitt, “Chlorine Suicide”



First Place (tie)

Anthony Ross, “Walkers Requiem

Michael Hunter, “Sam”

Second Place

Jeff Taylor, “Stickmen”

Third Place

Joseph E. Sissler, “I See Your Work”


Honorable Mentions

Steve A. Champion, “Escort: Excerpts From a Prison Cell

David-Michael Harding, “The Cats of Savone”

Travis Simpkins, “Independence Day”

Paul St. John, “Dear Betty Boop #578432”



Award Winner

Kim McNeir, “Drink Plenty of Water”


Honorable Mentions

Mary Ann Cook, “Imprints of the Heart”

Michael Sizemore, “Bulldog and Poodle”



First Place

Paul Mulryan, “Eleven Days Under Siege”

Second Place (tie)

Barry Corgill, “Tricky Dick and the Fast Martini”

Charles P. Norman, “A Day in the Life”

Third Place

Lowell Anspaugh, “A Stacked Deck”


Honorable Mentions

Larry Bratt, “Redemption Via Incarceration”

Emil Dill, “Insider’s View”

Jon Marc Taylor, “What Resorts?”



First Place

Edward Bell, “Brother Cool Blue”

Second Place

Steven Hartford, “Hart and Sole”

Third Place

Bruce Fleming, “Lockdowns”


Honorable Mentions

Derrick Corley, “The Kill”

Steven Dodrill, “Caged”

Charles P. Norman, “Tattoo Blues”

David Rexford, “Bobo”

J.E. Stanwick, “At No Extra Charge”

David Wood, “Thunder”