Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative, rehabilitative power of writing and provides hundreds of inmates across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. It provides a place for inmates 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 incarcerated 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. Request your copy of the handbook or purchase one on behalf of an incarcerated person.
Annual Prison Writing Contest
Every year hundreds of inmates 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.
Consisting of more than seventy mentors working with close to one hundred inmates, PEN America Mentorships continues to be the most interactive and engaging project in the Prison Writing Program.
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.