Sunday, 9 May 2010

Writers In Prison Network

The Writers In Prison Network are currently recruiting four Writers in Residence for new projects in Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions around the country. The writer in residence complements the role of the education departments in the prisons, although is not part of the education department.

Describing creativity as "the only legal way to escape", one of the aims of these projects is to enrich life in prison. Literacy levels amongst prisoners are shockingly low (around 60% of prisoners below level 1 literacy, making them eligible for less than 4% of jobs...), and having access to a 'real' writer enables them to harness some creativity, and learn valuable basic skills, better preparing them for life on the outside.

Applicants don't need to have experience of having worked in prisons before, and nor do you have to be a 'published' writer, although anybody who understands how publishing works and who has at least one article or story published is likely to have a bit more credibility with the prisoners.

The four new projects are at: HMP Castington, a young offenders institution in Northumbria; HMP Drake Hall, a young offenders institution for female foreign national offenders; HMP Hewell, an amalgamated prison which houses prisoners in three categories, including an open prison; and HMP Warren Hill, a young offenders institution in Suffolk.

The working day can be diverse enough to include anything from helping prisoners prepare a weekly newsletter, to helping prisoners tell their life stories in a storytelling group. Some writers in residence run workshops on topics from grappling with the short story form, to developing characters; and one currently-running project has one writer in residence helping prisoners who have written a play to prepare and perform it. So there's plenty to get your teeth into for anyone who really wants to make a difference to peoples' lives through creativity.

More information here and here.

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