English PEN’s prison writing competition gives prisoners across the UK an opportunity to have their work judged by a leading author and to see their writing published. Not only does the experience build skills and self-confidence, it can increase the possibility for rehabilitation.
The competition was launched five years ago and has quickly become one of our flagship activities. Last year, we received more than 500 entries from prisoners in 80 UK prisons. The competition has the potential to build on that achievement, to reach more prisoners and for their writing to reach a wider audience.
We are now raising funds to enable our annual national prison writing competition to take place in 2016 and would like to ask you to be part of this growing success story, through making a donation.
Each year a leading author is invited to judge the prison writing competition. Past judges have included Mark Haddon, Jackie Kay, Meg Rosoff and Jake Arnott. The winning and highly commended entries are published in an anthology, launched at an annual event in London. You can read the anthologies here.
Since the competition launched, we’ve had first-hand testimony from prison officers and prisoners themselves about the positive impact of taking part.
Sending an entry to the English PEN competition made me feel part of the world outside ̶ no longer just a prison number ̶ a human being once more.
Prisoner, HMP Swaleside
One cannot overstate the increase in self respect felt by prisoners acknowledged in this writing competition.
Prison officer, HMP Parc
To be able to write about, experience and release my innermost feelings is magic.
Prisoner, HMP Durham
This year we’re aiming to reach more prisoners and a wider audience for their writing, but we need your help. We are seeking to raise £16,579 to cover the costs of the 2016 competition: please consider donating or fundraising to help us reach our target, and help spread the word. @englishpen #PENprisoncomp