For over three decades, hundreds of imprisoned writers from around the country submit poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and dramatic works every year to PEN America’s annual Prison Writing Awards, one of the few outlets of free expression for the country’s incarcerated population. Anyone incarcerated in a federal, state, or county prison in the year before the September 1 deadline is eligible to enter. Prizes of $250, $150, and $100 are awarded for first, second, and third place, respectively, in each of the following categories: poetry, fiction, drama, nonfiction, and memoir. Winning submissions are then published in PEN America’s annual Prison Writing Awards Anthology, a collection of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and drama written by incarcerated individuals.



Read winners from past years by visiting our archive.

With special thanks to our Prison Writing Committee, who spends hours intimately involved with the thousands of submitted works to curate these incredible pieces.