Prison Writing

Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative, rehabilitative power of writing and provides hundreds of imprisoned writers across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. It provides a place for these writers to express themselves freely and encourages the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power.

Handbook for Writers in Prison

PEN’s Handbook for Writers in Prison features detailed guides on the art of writing fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and screenplays—an invaluable resource for any writer. Each year, thousands of free copies of the Handbook for Writers in Prison are sent to incarcerated men and women who request a copy. You may also request or purchase one on behalf of an incarcerated person.

Request a copy »

Annual Prison Writing Contest

Every year hundreds of imprisoned writers from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works to PEN’s Prison Writing Contest, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population. Manuscripts come to us in a variety of forms: some are handwritten, some are typed, some are written in the margins of legal documents.

Read more »

Mentorship Program

Consisting of more than seventy mentors working with close to one hundred incarcerated writers, PEN America Mentorships continues to be the most interactive and engaging project in the Prison Writing Program.

Find out more »

 

The Prison Writing Contest Prizes are sponsored by the generous support of the Greenburger Center for Social & Criminal Justice.

Programming for PEN America’s Prison Writing Program is made possible in part by generous funding from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

 

Read Award-Winning Works from the PEN Prison Writing Contest

Apple Jelly

“Clem! Where you been hidin’? Ain’t seen you in a month o’ Sundays!” “Tell ya what Emmett, you buy me a Pabst an’ I’ll tell ya ’xactly where I been.… More

The Blessing of Jebidiah Goodytake

That damned Bernie! One night, without invitation or provocation, he just burst into my room and began tapping my pillow—thump thump thumpity thump—as if he were jabbering off some… More

Monster in the Playground

This story is dedicated to all the children in this world who suffer abuse in whatever form, and to my step-mom, Dorothy. Dorothy’s prayerful hopes for me gave me… More

Walk Like a Man

Who’s Your Daddy? My birth mother’s name was Lula Mae. After her death my two sisters, three brothers, and I were taken in by various relatives. Melvin, the… More

Hell’s Kitchen

Chapter 1 The sign was unmarred, the wide steel door gleaming proudly with a virgin layer of bright royal blue paint. It read: “No Hostages Will Be Permitted Through These… More

Julia Iskowitz: Untitled

Untitled A voice that’s tinted with the hint of memory. I can hear myself not say the words, I can taste the salt of the tears you would not cry. And our intentions… More

Black Settlement Photo: Circa 1867

Twelve ancestor souls have been preserved In sepia tones one hundred forty years deep. Still uncomfortable in their two-year-old freedom. It’s a pseudo-freedom, the kind that pinches Expressions tight… More

Knotty Dreams

Knotty Dreams Staccato bursts unravel my thoughts Woodpeckers hammer at a camera tower oddly pleased with each aluminum notch they leave behind Somewhere a sparrow mends her nest in the city dome’s framework tugging at frayed wire and steel shavings I crouch… More

Page 12 of 16« First...1011121314...Last »