Prison Writing Program

Prison Writing Program

With plenty of time on their hands, incarcerated inmates need a chance to be able to express themselves in a healthy and creative way.

The Prison Writing Program, founded in 1971, works across the country to help bring pen, paper and instruction to hundreds of inmates willing to put their thoughts down on paper.  The Prison Writing Program believes in the rehabilitative power of the written word and the program wishes to provide a place where inmates can express them selves freely and to be able to share these thoughts with others.

The Prison Writing Program provides skilled writing teachers and sponsors an annual writing contest, publishes a free handbook for prisoners, provides on-on-one mentoring to prisoners and seeks to get the works either published or to be read aloud at literary readings.

I sometimes feel my mind is a stagecoach tethered to a herd of wild horses racing across one of those old western vistas, with some scruffy driver struggling just to hang on. The stagecoach is filled with people, ideas, and stories that are screaming to get out, and some can only escape as poems, plays or short stories.

Every year, the Prison Writing Program sponsors a writing contest and receives hundreds of submissions from prisoners around the country and include poetry, fiction, non-fiction and dramatic works. Interestingly, the submissions come in many forms – from hand written, to writings on the sides of legal documents – it depends on the availability of paper or equipment that the prisoner has.

The Prison Writing Program also produces a handbook called Handbook for Writers in Prison and features detailed guides on how to write fiction, non-fiction, poetry and screenplays. Many incarcerated inmates gain extremely helpful insight through this free handbook.

The Prison Writing Program is always searching for mentors to help incarcerated individuals in developing their writing skills. To learn more about mentorship, please read more here. 

If you would like to order a copy of the writing guide Handbook for Writers in Prison, the donations will help to ensure further editions of the handbook and will help to make sure that inmates can receive this valuable work.  Please read more here. 

Expressing yourself through writing can be a powerful form of therapy and many incarcerated inmates have learned to heal through the Prison Writing Program.