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American Prison Writing Archive

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The United States holds 2.2 million citizens in its prisons and jails—a higher number and constituting a higher percentage of its population than in any other nation on earth. Yet there remains widespread ignorance of conditions inside. This ignorance leads to indifference to how incarcerated Americans and prison workers experience those conditions. This disregard does a disservice to free-world citizens, policy makers, students and scholars, as well as to those who work and live in incarceration. We suffer effective censorship of the foremost resource for understanding the realities of imprisonment today. 

The American Prison Writing Archive is a place where imprisoned people and prison staff can write about and document their experience. It is a site where all who live or work inside can bear witness to what is working and what is not inside American prisons, thus grounding public debate about the American prison crisis in lived experience.

The APWA is open to contributions by current and formerly incarcerated people, correctional officers, staff, administrators and volunteers. It is a virtual meeting place where we can learn from of all who live and work inside. The APWA is an open-source archive accessible to a global readership. It spreads the voices of unheard populations, thus increasing awareness and improving the ease with which we can all better educate ourselves about one of America's most powerful and most problematic institutions.

Doran Larson in the DHi

Faculty Grant

$262,000 NEH Grant

In 2017, Doran Larson was awarded $262,000 by the National Endowment of the Humanities for American Prison Writing Archive. The three-year grant will enable the APWA to double the size of the archive and increase its search capacities.

Contact Information

Doran Larson

Project Director

Project Team

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