Every year, hundreds of writers in prisons around the country submit works to PEN America’s Prison Writing Contest. This year’s submissions spoke to the resilience, individuality, and indomitable artistry of writers inside prison walls. While we celebrate the accomplishments of this year’s winners, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the devastating aftermath of the pandemic’s second year, which saw the eruption of carceral facilities as viral hotspots, empty promises of decarceration, and vast disparities in prison health care. In a time of acute disaster, this contest presents writers, poets, and playwrights with a conduit for their experiences, imagination, and indispensable literary voices.

With special thanks to our Prison Writing Committee, who spent hours intimately involved with the thousands of submitted works to curate these incredible pieces. These pieces will be publicly available on our website, and are also included in our 2022 Prison Writing Contest Anthology.





First Place

Alex TretbarVariations on an Undisclosed Location

Second Place

C. Fausto CabreraWhen Kneaded

Third Place

Fernando RivasInquiry


Honorable Mentions

Davi GrayLightning Rods

Jason CentroneWithout You Silhouetted

John Corley – “First Night



First Place

Frank Kensaku Saragosa –Life. In Pieces

Second Place

Rahsaan “New York” ThomasSilent Treatment

Third Place

Ryan M. Moser – “The Reinvention of Lenny Primo


Honorable Mentions

Wintersun LemieuxA Fable for Leann

Thomas Bartlett WhitakerRelease

Kevin Schaeffer – “Word of the Day: Bifurcation



First Place

Frank Kensaku Saragosa – “Caught Crossing, Caught Between – A Tale of Two Cities

Second Place

Joseph GrossoNow This Is Man

Third Place

Lyle C. MayY’all Aint Here To Be Rehabilitated


Honorable Mention

Reginald Stephens – “From the Sidelines

Paul M. Wach – “I Work as a Lead Man

Daniel Pirkel – “The Unintended Consequences of Retributive Justice



First Place

Burl N. CorbettAnother Rainy Day

Second Place

Leo CardezConvict Chronicles: Cooking

Third Place

Geneva PhillipsThe Hard Part


Honorable Mentions

Elizabeth HawesPain Management

John AdamsHating Daddy

Tsunami Caryl-Averlyn – “Co-Ed



First Place

Alex Friedmann – “Twenty Years In Solitary – A Play in 20 Acts

Second Place

Brandon J. AmosCan’t Win PEN

Third Place

Evan DrennanChasing the Apex


Honorable Mentions

Burl N. CorbettOfficer Sam Doesn’t Work Here, Anymore

Walter SamHorrible Brothers

Gary K. Farlow – “A Homeless History Lesson



Fielding A. Dawson Prize in Poetry

Chad H. RandLitany in Pairs

Fielding A. Dawson Prize in Fiction

Julian BlanchardThe Intern

Fielding A. Dawson Prize in Memoir

Steven Reynaldo PerezA Texas Prisoner Remembers

Fielding A. Dawson Prize in Drama

Sean WhiteT-Minus