Writers in Prison Programme

The Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN was set up in 1960 and has aptly been called ‘the beating heart of PEN’.

The Committee has supported thousands of writers imprisoned and threatened throughout the world.

We help prisoners in various ways:

  • By adopting writers as prisoners of conscience;

  • By ‘minding’ them: we assign one or more Committee members to write to imprisoned writers throughout the long years of their imprisonment;

  • By sending books to imprisoned writers;

  • By responding to news of arrests, reports of torture, unjust sentencing and harassment of prisoners and their families through the Rapid Action Network;

  • By lobbying governments to observe their commitment to human rights in line with international treaties;

  • By raising awareness of our cases through the British media;

  • By organising demonstrations and protests on behalf of our cases;

  • By promoting the work of threatened and imprisoned writers, for instance in the forthcoming English PEN anthology, Another Sky, due to be published by Profile in April 2007;

  • By undertaking missions to visit prisoners and their families, attend trials and advocate on behalf of imprisoned writers with national authorities;

  • By working where appropriate with other human rights organisations in related fields;

  • By helping prisoners after their release.

The work of the Writers in Prison Programme is administered by the Campaigns Manager, Lucy Miles, working with the Writers in Prison Committee, currently chaired by Carole Seymour-Jones.

There is a range of ways in which Members of English PEN can support our work:

  • By joining the Rapid Action Network. All you need do is contact Lucy Miles(email rapidactionnetwork@englishpen.org or telephone 020 7713 0023), who will include you in each Rapid Action alert. Usually this involves writing to an embassy, a cabinet minister or a head of state to protest a particular development taken against a writer or group of writers. RANS can be incredibly effective in letting governments know that their actions have been observed.

  • By fundraising or donating. Raising funds is crucial to our ability to help prisoners. The WiPC mounted the hugely successful evening ‘The Right To Dissent’ at the New Players’ Theatre in 2005 which raised over £6,000. But we want to encourage English PEN members to undertake smaller scale initiatives and would welcome your ideas.

  • By joining the Writers in Prison Committee. Committee members commit on a long-term basis to write to writers in prison, and contribute to the development of the programme. This can be a long and often unrewarding task and can continue for many years with scant chance of getting a reply. But for prisoners these letters are a life-line to the outside world. Even if they are unable to reply, knowing that there are other writers and literary professionals who are thinking about them and trying to get them released, is enormously valuable. Often when prisoners are released they give eloquent testimony to the value of our letters. The WiPC members are elected to bring particular expertise and skills to our work and are expected to attend Committee meetings every six weeks.

Email Lucy Miles on lucym@englishpen.org or call the English PEN office on 020 7713 0023 if you would like to contribute in any of the ways outlined here, whether you are a current Member or interested in joining English PEN.

Carole Seymour-Jones, WiPC Chair

Lucy Miles, Campaigns Manager responsible for the Writers in Prison Programme

Jonathan Heawood, Director, English PEN

Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/writersinprison/prisoners/ragipzarakolu/

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