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)

Alejo Daw’ud Rodriguez, “Parole Board Bluez”

Richard Earl Young, “Pluck”

Second Place

Marilyn Buck, “21st & Guerrero”

Third Place

John Byron Yarborough, “The Job”


Honorable Mentions

Allen Unselt, “8:15”

Philip Homer, “Regrets And Other Souvenirs”

Paul Ferguson, “Dog That Died”



First Place

Charles Hucklebury, Jr., “I Killed Timothy McVeigh”

Second Place

Gary Parks, “Dopeshed Reverie”

Third Place

Reginald Alexander, “Doll’s Story”


Honorable Mentions

Tyrine Wyche, “Under The Gun”

Francisco Hernandez, “The Real Vida Loca”

James Russel, “Wind of Faith”

George Hughes, “Hate And Revenge Walk in the Shoes of a Dead Man”



Award Winners

Christopher Dylan Gable, “Untitled (Tomato)”

Derrick Corely, “Death House”


Honorable Mentions

Gerhard Hanneman, “Entering Orange at San Quentin”

Raymond E. Williams, “Begging to Get Into Prison”

Seth M. Ferranti, “The American Dream”



First Place

Paul Ferguson, “The Hole”

Second Place

Walter L. Parman, “Death of a Prison”

Third Place

G. Wilford Hathorm, “Animus”



First Place

David Taber, “The Recital”

Second Place

Christian Alessandro Sierra (Rafael Vasquez), “Take the Time”