For more than 30 years, PEN’s Prison Writing Program has been dedicated to helping make the harsh realities of American imprisonment part of our social justice dialogue. PEN’s program has also been on the front lines of prison reform, helping inmates in federal, state and local penitentiaries cope with life behind bars, gain skills and have a voice while they are there. The Prison Writing Program accomplishes all this through mentorships and an annual writing competition that receives between 20-30 entries per day from local, state and federal prisons–including from prisoners on death row.
The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world; there are hundreds of prisons across the country and, as of 2007, these institutions housed more than 2,300,000 inmates–70% of whom are non-white. Nearly 1 million of those in prison are serving time for committing non-violent crimes. Sadly, the situation is not improving.
This partnership between The Greene Space and PEN will convene luminaries from the New York theater world–Mary Gaitskill, Eric Bogosian and others–to read pieces that will be chosen from the best of the winning manuscripts of the Prison Writing contest, and from the extraordinarily moving diaries that men and women have written as part of our collaboration with the Anne Frank Center, USA.
Inmates will have the opportunity to see and hear their pieces being read via a live video webcast.
A Collaborator ticket covers the expenses of one-on-one mentoring between a PEN member and an incarcerated man or woman for one year. Friend ticket covers the postage and printing costs to provide 8 incarcerated men and women with a free copy of PEN’s Handbook for Writers in Prison.