Each year, the PEN American Center presents awards for its Prison Writing Program. The program encourages literacy and creative expression. All participants are currently incarcerated somewhere in the United States. The PEN Center receives thousands of entries each year. The judges read the entries and make subjective evaluations in the following categories: poetry, fiction, essay, memoir, and drama. The 2012 winners, including honorable mentions, are listed below. These author-prisoners are to be congratulated and applauded.

2012 Annual Writing Contest Award Winners


First Place: How Should I Look?Charles Norman, FL

Second Place: Tell Me the Story Again About the Frogs, and the Seeds

Christopher Myers, TX

Third Place: Chessman’s Lunch Frederic Bertoff, FL

Dawson Prize: The DestituteBrian M. Batchelor, LIT

Honorable Mentions (Winners listed alphabetically)

Kite to Kierkegaard Randy Gomez, CO

What She KnowsJames Chris Hubbard, NC

PirouetteDonald Lee Swackhammer, MI


First Place: Siddhartha’s Loop – Scott Gutches, CO

Second Place: The Examination — Eric Boyd, PA

Third Place: 77ic Target— Corey Jasmin, CA

Dawson Prize: Catching die Setting Sun— Denis Martinez, NY

Honorable Mentions (Winners listed alphabetically)

Purple Horizon— Ezekiel Caligiuri, MN

A Day in the Life of a Prisoner— Michael Romero, CA

Alter Prison – J.F, Wantz, OR


First Place: Bleak Housing and Black Americans Atif Rafay, WA

Second Place: Seven Thousand Yesterdays — Greg Goodman, VA

Third Place: A Good Dude — Eugene Dey, CA

Dawson Prize: Beauty —Julian Conception

Honorable Mentions (Winners listed alphabetically)

Commissary Day—John Adams, TX

Illinois Abolishes Death Penalty — Joseph Dole, IL

The Stew of Discontent– William Steed Kelley, TX


First Place: The Last Visit from the Girl in the Willow Tree Ezekiel Caligiuri, MN

Second Place: AccompliceChasity West, CT

Third Place: Planted in Concrete— Terrence Sampson, TX

Honorable Mentions (Winners listed alphabetically)

Bringer of Fire —Jason Cooper, CA

My Father’s Violin— Burl N. Corbett, CA

How I Became My Father — Leonard Scovens, FL


First Place: Somewhere Between Robert Weaver, FL

Second Place: Probe— Stephen David Long, MK,

Third Place: Crabtree —Joseph Allen, Jr., MA

Dawson Prize: The Marvel Office World— Christopher Myers, NV

Honorable Mentions (Winners listed alphabetically)

Untitled Anthony Ramirez, CA

Little Sunshine Keith Sanders, TX

The Meridian- Matthew G. Walker, MN

Tom & JerryChristian J. Weaver, TN

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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