Writing For Justice Fellows 2021 2022 Hero Image

Illustrations by Anne Segal

Writing for Justice Fellowship 2021-2022

PEN America’s Writing for Justice Fellowship commissions writers—emerging or established—to create written works of lasting merit that illuminate critical issues related to mass incarceration and catalyze public debate.

The fellowship aims to harness the power of writers and writing in bearing witness to the societal consequences of mass incarceration by capturing and sharing the stories of incarcerated individuals, their families, communities, and the wider impact of the criminal justice system. Our goal is to ignite a broad, sustained conversation about the dangers of over-incarceration and the imperative to mobilize behind rational and humane policies.

Meet our 2021-2022 cohort below, and learn about our previous fellows and their impressive accomplishments by visiting the links at the bottom of this page.

As an organization of writers dedicated to promoting free expression and informed discourse, PEN America is honored to have been entrusted by the Art for Justice Fund to engage the literary community in addressing this pressing societal issue. If interested in applying, we welcome you to read more about the program and view our past application guidelines. Please check back for information on how and when to apply to our next fellowship round in fall 2021.

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Starr Davis

Columbus, OH

Starr Davis will work on HUSSLE, a memoir essay collection that examines the personal, political, and spiritual implications of growing up as a young Black woman with an incarcerated parent, embedded in a Midwest landscape crippled by mass incarceration.

Davis will be working with writer Reginald Dwayne Betts.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

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P.M. Dunne

Napanoch, NY

P.M. Dunne will create a multimedia project that merges poetic verse with dance, emphasizing the need for prison art programs with merit-based incentives such as community engagement and early release.

Dunne will be working with choreographer Sarah Dahnke.

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Elizabeth Flock

Tujunga, CA

Elizabeth Flock will write a magazine piece that exposes the criminalization of sex workers and trafficked women who kill in self-defense, driven by three central stories of justice-involved women and bolstered by in-depth research on self-defense law as it relates to rape, abuse, and trafficking.

Flock will be working with journalist Rachel Aviv.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

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Caleb Gayle

New York, NY

Caleb Gayle will write a longform essay about how prison gerrymandering manipulates electoral power—increasing the strength of white rural communities, while compounding the marginalization of communities of color—through a central narrative of multigenerational incarceration in a Black family.

Gayle will be working with writer Kiese Laymon.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

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Juan Moreno Haines

San Quentin, CA

Juan Moreno Haines, an incarcerated journalist and survivor of COVID-19, will write a longform journalism piece analyzing San Quentin State Prison officials’ lack of adequate response to the novel coronavirus outbreak, which caused the death of 28 incarcerated people and a correctional sergeant.

Haines will be working with journalist and editor Bill Keller.

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Aron Pines

Highland Park, NJ

Aron Pines will expose the harrowing judicial process for youth offenders sentenced as adults through the completion of his coming-of-age memoir, The Miseducation of Icarus, which follows the 21-year-old author as he prepares to represent himself at trial, facing not only the jury but his own personal reckoning.

Pines will be working with novelist Ryan Gattis.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

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Citlali Pizarro

Washington, D.C.

Citlali Pizarro will work on an in-depth journalistic examination of carceral California’s history of forced sterilizations—from 20th-century eugenics, to the illegal sterilizations of incarcerated women in the 2000s—interrogating the ways confinement violates reproductive autonomy by design.

Pizarro will be working with investigative journalist Jordan Smith.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

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Leonard Scovens

Florida City, FL

Leonard Scovens, tapping into his personal experience with restorative and holistic justice—and rounding out his book project American Penitentiary—will write a series of essays exploring how cultural accountability and forgiveness are critical components of ending mass incarceration, and necessary for healing the historical traumas of slavery and genocide at its root.

Scovens will be working with journalist Nicole Lewis.

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Clarice Thomas

Grand Rapids, MI

Clarice Thomas will complete a nonfiction book project, Writing Home, which identifies the societal factors that implicate prison as an inevitable life course for African Americans through a firsthand account of multigenerational incarceration of father and son—the author’s grandfather and uncle.

Thomas will be working with editor zakia henderson-brown.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

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Sarah Wang

New York, NY

Sarah Wang will work on a series of lyric essays that utilize reporting, poetry, and cultural criticism to explore the often contradictory and capricious nature of bearing witness to mass incarceration as a survivor of domestic violence in the era of abolition and #MeToo.

Wang will be working with law professor Jyoti Nanda.

Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

2021-2022 Writing For Justice Finalists

Sessi Kuwabara Blanchard
Paula Bohince
Nora Bonner
Andrew Brininstool
David Campbell
Victoria Ford
Drew Hawkins
Maha Hilal
Kiran Misra
Jamie Pietras
Susan Stellin
Dierdre Sugiuchi
Colbert Williams

2021-2022 Writing For Justice Semifinalists

Ashia Ajani
Michael Fischer
Logan Vincent Ford
Douglas Halford
Faylita Hicks
Luke Malone
Matthew Parker
Chad Rand
Jenny Stafford
Emma Stammen
Jordan Thomas
Tria Blu Wakpa
Karen Zacharias

Advisory Committee

Asha Bandele
Dr. Baz Dreisinger
Dr. Eve L. Ewing
Randall Horton
Piper Kerman
Zachary Lazar
Nigel Poor
Julio Ricardo Varela
Earlonne Woods

Learn More About Previous Fellows and Their Accomplishments

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