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 (tie)

Kathy Boudin, “A Trilogy of Journeys”

Jon Schillaci, “Americans”

Second Place

Barbara Saunders, “Wold”

Third Place

Joseph Burgeson, “No Passage”


Honorable Mentions

Marilyn Buck, “Thirteen Springs”

Christopher Presfield, “Old Don and Frisbee”

Douglas Scott Nowell, “Regrets”



First Place

Scott Antworth, “The Tower Pig”

Second Place

Patricia Coyne, “Trash Call”

Third Place

Joe Martier, “Arty, Arty in Free”


Honorable Mentions

James Raupp, “Death of a Jailhouse Lawyer”

James Gothrup-Marker, “Calybou (excerpt)”

Phillip S. Barcia, “The Real Thing”



Award Winner

Eric Reid, “I Am The Wall”



First Place

Ken Lamberton, “Of Prison Parks and Bug Watching”

Second Place

Victor Hassine, “Monochromes From Over a Prison’s Edge”

Third Place

William Eric Waters, “A Day in the Life of a Jailhouse Lawyer”


Honorable Mentions

Flanders Jordan, “Fish Fry”

Kenneth Monsebroten, “Stranger Behind Glass”

Donald LaDow, “Strange Angels”



First Place

Alex Friedmann, “The Row”

Second Place

Bob Martin, “Mel’s Hole”

Third Prize (tie)

James Raupp, “Thrown Stones and Retro Moans”

Reginald S. Lewis, “Good Night, Boo Baby”


Honorable Mentions

William H. David, Jr., “Closing Arguments in the Trial of Mr. Gunn”

Lance E. Fleming, “Swinechild”