Photo by Peter Merts

Today most stories about prison are written with an outside perspective. Prison Journalism Project publishes stories by incarcerated writers and others who know the system from the inside and want to take the power of journalism into their own hands, learn the craft of journalistic storytelling and share their stories of life behind bars. 

Our mission is to help you tell stories about your communities using the tools of journalism: gathering and testing facts and writing with nuance, texture and insight to reach a thoughtful audience. 

We welcome submissions by anyone who is touched by the criminal legal system, whether you are first-time or experienced writers. We accept reported news and features as well as essays, memoirs and op-eds across all topics, including community, family and prison life and hard-hitting topics like COVID-19 and police brutality. We are especially eager for stories with accompanying art or stand alone art depicting an aspect of prison life. We will also publish narrative poetry that tell true stories.

Once you publish with us, we consider you to be a part of our community. 

Every writer on our site has a portfolio page, where all of their stories for PJP are displayed. Stories are organized by category and/or topic, and curated pages highlight exceptional or timely pieces of work. The Our Writers page lists all writers published on our site. We have ended our Contributing Writers and Artist program, and are in the midst of developing a new PJP career progression for our writers and artists. (Click for more information.)

How to Get Started

(Download our Submission Guidelines as a PDF.)

1) First, start with our Submission Guidelines and our FAQs.

This includes important information, such as our content policy and the requirements for word length.

2) Next, read our Writing Prompts.

You are free to write about anything, but we’ve listed some topics — the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Lives Matter, personal relationships, to name a few — and provided questions for you to consider writing about.

3) As you start writing, refer to our “Writing Well From Inside Prison” article, our Style Guide and our Journalism Guide.

  • Writing Well From Inside Prison is an article with tips from our advisor John J. Lennon, who is an award-winning Prison Journalist at Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York.
  • The Style Guide addresses common journalism writing style issues, such as abbreviation, capitalization, spelling and numerals.
  • The Journalism Guide covers the basic rules of journalism and principles for how to pull together an article.

4) Make sure you have signed and returned the “Permission to Publish and Acknowledgement.”

The “Permission to Publish and Acknowledgement” is on the third page of the Submissions Guidelines (PDF).

5) Submit your story to the Prison Journalism Project!

Thank you! You will hear back from us in approximately 12 weeks (we ask for your patience as we are inundated with submissions).