In “Why Colleges Should Take a Chance on Me,” writer John J Lennon, a contributing editor for Esquire magazine, pointed to Walcott-Bartlett Chair and Professor of Literature and Creative Writing Doran Larson as the man to whom he owed his career. Lennon, who is incarcerated in New York’s Sullivan Correctional Facility, wrote about Larson’s Attica Prison-based writing workshop and its impact. “A part of me feels Doran Larson sacrificed his writerly ambitions so we in that workshop could, if only for a moment, feel like we were something more than inmate, prisoner, murderer, this evil thing.”
Lennon took Larson’s workshop in 2010 and continued in the group for several years. “In 2013, after perfecting an essay for months, I sent it off to The Atlantic. They published it,” he wrote.
Subtitled “I’m a writer only because educators were dedicated to my success,” the article was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Appearing in print on Feb. 5 as part of the publication’s new report on prison education, the essay focused on the recent lifting of the ban on Pell grants for prisoners and its future effects on that population.
Larson taught creative writing inside Attica Correctional Facility from 2006 through 2016. He initiated and continues to teach classes in the Hamilton-Herkimer College-in-Prison Program at the Mohawk Correctional Facility near Utica. Larson is also the founder of the American Prison Writing Archive.