Posted: August 25, 2013 by Ed Griffin in Prison, Reform
Tags: , , , , , , ,

intensityThe writing that comes from people in prison is the same as the writing that comes from people on the outside – and it’s totally different. It’s the same in that every writer leaves holes in his writing and so do the people in prison. I submit manuscripts to my writing group, perfect novel chapters that reveal character and keep the action moving. Of course, the members of the group point out the holes in my story, holes big enough to back a semi through.

There is an intensity about writing that comes from prison. Maybe I’m reading into the stories, but it seems to me that there is more feeling in prison writing, be it humor or a novel chapter.

I remember the writing of a man that the authorities said had a very low IQ. He turned in stories about lions and tigers every week. It was clear that he liked these animals, but I felt it went deeper. Maybe he was living through those stories, maybe the animals did what he couldn’t, or maybe he wanted to write something for someone who took him seriously.

Another man writes about a man and a woman as they get to know each other. Yes, it’s like every other story in this genre, but no, the reader feels the deep intensity of the people and the situation.

I admit my analysis might be over the top. Perhaps I’m happy to see inmate writers, because I know they no longer ‘live’ in prison and because they are discovering themselves as they write.

When the government ordered that all prisons, including pretrials – remand centers – had to have schools, the principal I worked for sent me off to start a school at our local pretrial.

“What do you mean ‘start a school,’ I asked.

“You’re good at getting people to write,” he said. “Get them to write.”

For this principal, writing was the key to education and, he shared the intensity I’ve identified.

Image courtesy of  Scientific American

  1. WilderSoul says:

    Hi Ed Griffin!
    It is wonderful to find your blog and to discover that you get people to write, in prisons. I came across the Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop recently and wish there were more I could do to help people in these circumstances. (
    I will come back to read more about your work, and some of the related topics on your blog soon!
    All the best,

  2. Aina Baron says:

    I agree that it must be a huge help for those in prison to write because they probably feel a little free -er emotionally. This is so important because what they say as they write is sometimes not ever being said out loud or to other prisoners. They must get quite internal when no one really shares their emotions openly. Kudo’s to you for helping!

  3. Joanne says:

    You are doing a very good thing, Ed. Writing does allow people not to live in prison–even if it is temporary.

    I believe that people who run into great obstacles in life write with more feeling. It’s not just the ones in prison but prisoners certainly have run into great obstacles!

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