by Meia Geddes
PEN American Center is the U.S. branch of the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization, according to the website. PEN has many programs, including a Prison Writing Program, Translation Committee, and the World Voices Program. Here is the explanation for the Prison Writing Program:
Founded in 1971, the PEN Prison Writing Program believes in the restorative and rehabilitative power of writing, by providing hundreds of inmates across the country with skilled writing teachers and audiences for their work. The program seeks to provide a place for inmates to express themselves freely with paper and pen and to encourage the use of the written word as a legitimate form of power. The program sponsors an annual writing contest, publishes a free handbook for prisoners, provides one-on-one mentoring to inmates whose writing shows merit or promise, conducts workshops for former inmates, and seeks to get inmates’ work to the public through literary publications and readings.
I believe that prisons need to be more related to peace in the rehabilitative sense, not only in the sense of punishment. Three Strikes, mandatory minimums, the “war on drugs,” and the tough political stance that politicians too often embrace must end. Putting people in boxes is not the answer.