There has been a missing voice in the emerging debate about what’s wrong with our prison system — the voice of the men and women living it. Prison Writers was created to give (mostly maximum-security) prisoners a place to publish their non-fiction stories about life behind bars.
Prison Writers has received hundreds and hundreds of stories from incarcerated writers, covering a variety of topics, including cellmates, smuggling, contraband, abuse from prison guards, the lack of educational programs, gang life, lockdowns, rape, fights, water shortages, visitation, animals and more.
We have a mission to be a leading voice within the prison reform movement. Since no one is allowed inside the prison walls to explore the harsh realities that plague our prison system, we have provided prisoners with an outlet to share with us their experiences. We want to uncover the truth, so that the prison system can become a more effective system for all members of society.
We aim to make aims to make a positive change within the criminal justice system by doing the following:
- Educating people on what life is like behind bars.
- Advocating for prison and criminal justice reform.
- Providing prisoners with a sense of purpose and responsibility.
- Preparing prisoners for success for when they complete their sentence.
Our Valuable Team Members
What We’ve Learned
Our first surprise when we started Prison Writers, was the caliber of writing. But it wasn’t long before the bigger surprise became the passionate and positive feedback we got from our writers, thanking us for giving all prisoners a voice.
We had no idea Prison Writers would become a lifeline to so many of our writers. They tell us that we’ve given them a feeling of pride again, something they thought they would never be able to feel again. They like having goals worth striving for, a sense of purpose and hope, new things to think about and new worlds to explore. And many feel buoyed knowing they’re part of a greater good, in a community of their peers, working together to change prison policies.
We pay our writers $10 per published article, which is a fortune to some of the indigent inmates and a blessing to the rest. I pay them because I think all writers deserve to be paid for their published work. And nothing is more rehabilitative for them than having someone believe that their work, their voice and their writing has value out in the real world.
If a story needs heavy editing, we give writers some suggestions and ask them to try again. In some cases, we ask writers to rewrite certain sections; in other cases, we only fix a typo or two. Sometimes we move a paragraph or two around. But in all cases, we never do more than very light editing. Where necessary, we “translated” prison lingo for our readers. When possible, we fact-check any verifiable information.