A paid short essay prize for work authored by people who are currently or formerly incarcerated

Truthout is proud to open submissions for the second year of the annual Keeley Schenwar Memorial Essay Prize, for work authored by people who are currently or formerly incarcerated.

Truthout will be awarding two prizes, each for an original essay of 1,500 words or less on the topic of prisons, policing or a related subject. It may be written as a first-person narrative (although that is not a requirement). Each of the two winners will be awarded a prize of $3,000. The essays will be published on Truthout.

This prize is in honor of Keeley Schenwar, who was a devoted mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer and advocate for incarcerated mothers. Keeley was incarcerated, on and off, over the course of 14 years. She wrote often, both poetry and prose, particularly focusing on her experiences of incarceration and addiction. Keeley spoke out publicly about the inhumanity of the U.S. prison system and wrote about her own experience of incarceration. She wrote this essay about giving birth while incarcerated, and the brutality of being separated from her newborn baby. 

Keeley died on February 4, 2020. This prize is in the spirit of Keeley’s desire for the kind of world where everyone can live a good life.

Keeley was the sister of Truthout Editor-in-Chief Maya Schenwar, and was one of the inspirations for Truthout’s early and sustained dedication to covering the injustices and violence of incarceration and policing. The Keeley Schenwar Memorial Essay Prize is reopened each year on the anniversary of Keeley’s death to continue drawing attention to the cruel realities of the oppressive systems she struggled against and wrote about. 

The prize is open to people who are either currently or formerly incarcerated. 

The deadline for submissions is May 1, 2022. Prizes will be announced by July 1, 2022.

Thank you to Jeanne Hodesh for forwarding this information! 


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