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

Sessions

Fine, I saw all that, and I saw…sweat. Dying sweat on a forehead, rage sweat coming down a face, scared sweat above a lip. You know what I think?… More

Death by Dominoes

The maximum-security prison was a depraved place, a hermetic kingdom of the damned, haunted by its own terrible spirit. It was a hulking brute of a building, stout as… More

Conviction

Ben didn’t know his way out, so I’ve had to show him. And I couldn’t have done it without your help. For that, I’m not going to kill you. More

Appeals from the Senseless

I’ll flood the courts with my appeals. / I’ll complain about my prison meals. // Here’s another thing I refuse to see. / The courts are slow because of… More

People I Know

They are girls in buffalo stances, / that dance for men they hate, / who even sometimes hate themselves, / but still paint the pain on in the morning… More

Prison Diary

How can I communicate what it is like to get arrested when you have one four month old daughter and a second daughter on the way, and then be… More

Of Ash and Bone

Even the legend of the two self-garroters varied according to the storyteller. In some versions the men were star-crossed lovers who died tragically, side by side. In others the… More

Painting the Sunset

It’s said that too many cooks spoil the broth and two women under one roof is one too many. It couldn’t have been easy for my Aunt Margie to… More

Page 6 of 16« First...45678...Last »