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

Marilyn Buck, “Too Dark”

Second Place

Charles Goldblum, “His Loss”

Third Place (tie)

Christopher Presfield, “American Gray”

Jorge Antonion Renaud, “This Time, This Time”


Honorable Mentions

Milton E. McCoy, “I Stand Alone In the Rubble…”

Gordon Grilz, “The Distance Between Us”

Sachio Ko-Yin, “Mr. Andretti To His Wife”



First Place

Phillip S. Barcia, “After the War”

Second Place (tie)

Jorgen Antonio Renaud, “The Zoom”

Gary Parks, “A Horseshoer’s Christmas”

Third Place

Michael Wayne Hunter, “No Quarter”


Honorable Mentions

John V. Hearne, “Freed”

Edmund Powers, “Donations”

W.W. Nichols, “Captain Jack & the Notorious Nav”



First Place

Anthony La Barca Falcone, “The Revelation of Irreparable Damage”

Second Place

D.L. Youngblood, “Cowboy Philosophy”


Honorable Mentions

Mark Chanchdo, “Where the Food’s Gone…”

Marilyn Buck, “Women in Prison and Work”

Kenneth Hart, “Christmas Tree”



First Place

David Hargrove, “Something Wicked This Way Came”

Second Place

Jorge Antonio Renaud, “Analysis of a Lockdown”

Third Place

Dyanne Petersen, “Sex Behind Bars”



First Place

Tyrone Wyche, “After a Driveby”

Second Place

Phillip Aver, “Rats in a Maze”

Third Place

Paul Ferguson, “Everything That’s Cool”


Honorable Mention

Willie T. Sutton, “The Wino & the Junkie”