How to Submit

The American Prison Writing Archive is not yet set up for digital submissions, we encourage prospective authors to write to the following address:

American Prison Writing Archive
Johns Hopkins University
3400 N. Charles St.
Baltimore, MD 21218

Anyone with first-hand experience inside US carceral institutions today is eligible to submit essays. This includes prison employees and volunteers, who materially shape the day-to-day conditions in which incarcerated people live, and who are in turn deeply affected by their work.

Guidelines for submissions:

  • Length should be limited to less than 5,000 words (15 pages typed and double-spaced, or 25 pages handwritten).

  • Clearly handwritten pages are welcome. Please use pen, if possible.

  • The APWA is not currently accepting fiction, and accepts poetry only when related to criminal justice experience.

  • The APWA does not post material addressed to third parties, such as legal documents, letters or grievances.

  • Please do not use the full names of other incarcerated people.

  • The APWA reserves the right to redact or reject work that advocates violence, names names in ongoing legal cases, or libels named individuals.

  • The APWA does not offer editorial, promotional, or legal services. If your primary aim is to get your work before agents and publishers, please seek other outlets.

  • Submissions are scanned and posted to the APWA website as photographic images, appearing to readers as submitted. Therefore, please only include information on submissions that you wish to be shared with a broad audience. However, we will not scan and post cover letters mailed with submissions. More information.

Please include a permissions-questionnaire (PQ). We must have a signed PQ in order to post work in the APWA. Writers can submit multiple essays at a time, and only one PQ is required.

  • All submissions are read and, with very rare exceptions, scanned, and ingested.

  • All handwritten essays are also transcribed—and can be transcribed by any visitor—to make them fully searchable.

  • A truly inclusive vision of life inside requires the testimony of everyone who lives, works, or volunteers in prisons today. In this light, readers will note the under-representation of women, trans, and gender nonconforming people, as well as incarcerated individuals from Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and those incarcerated in jail facilities in the Archive. We invite all APWA visitors who work with or know incarcerated people to help us in increasing contributions from these populations, as well as from prison workers and volunteers.

  • Most often, essays are solicited through prisoner-support newsletters and a call for essays through partnered prison-circulated publications such as Prison Legal News. If you are a representative or can put us in contact with a publication we are not currently working with to circulate the call for essays, please tell us more by writing

Help us get the word out to new writers to contribute their first-hand experiences with APWA. Share our Call for Essays with family, friends, and incarceration focused support and advocacy groups and educational programming.