2019 writing competition winners





The Prison Reform Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2019 writing competition.

(click on the red links to read the winning entries)

A Good Officer' - a comment piece or article of no more than 500 words, the winners are:

1st BB The judges said it was, "A very fine piece of writing, colourful and compelling - brilliant phrasing and imagery - a clear winner."
2nd JF The judges said  this was, "a thoughtful, intelligent, well-argued piece."
=3rd KH The judges said that this piece contained, "good insights, good points about the needs and best practices for women in prison."
=3rd MP The judges said this entry was, "a very good portrayal of the posive impact  diversity awareness can have on a person's prison journey."

The judges were Erwin James, Guardian columnist and editor of Inside Time. He is the author of three books: A Life Inside: A Prisoner’s Notebook, The Home Stretch:From Prison to Parole, and Redeemable: A Memoir of Darkness and Hope. And, Big Issue editor Paul McNamee. Paul was appointed UK editor of the Big Issue in 2011, the first time the Big Issue had a single editor across all national, regional and online editions. Previously, Paul worked for the NME and has written for the Daily Mirror, the Guardian, the Belfast Telegraph, and The Irish Times.


'Hope' - a short story of no more than 1,000 words, the winners were:


The judges were Rachel Billington OBE. Rachel has published 21 novels for adults, the latest entitled Glory, as well as children’s books, and non-fiction titles. In 2018 she edited the 7th vol. of Inside Poetry: Voices from Prison, published by Inside Time. She is Honorary Vice-President of English PEN and an associate editor of and contributor to Inside Time. And, Minette Walters, a psychological thriller writer, who applies her skills to both crime and historical fiction. She achieved a unique triple when her first three novels won the highest awards for crime and thriller fiction in the UK and USA. She is published in 36 countries and five of her stories have been adapted for television. Her major interest is working with offenders, both inside prison and on release.

'Speak out' - a rap/lyric of no more than 400 words, the winners are:


The judges were, Akala, a BAFTA/MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer and TV presenter. He is also founder of the Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company, a music theatre production company specialising in the delivery of education programmes, live events and music productions aimed at engaging young people to help them achieve artistic excellence. And, Femi Oyeniran, an award-winning London-based actor/ filmmaker who has starred in hit films Kidulthood and Anuvahood. His first feature film as filmmaker, It’s a Lot, was released in 2013, followed by The Intent (2016) The 12 (2017) and The Intent 2: The Come Up (2018). His production company Purple Geko produced the 10-part Sky Living series Venus vs Mars and ITV2’s Dropperz. His latest show as a writer, Turn Up Charlie, is available on Netflix in over 191 countries.


The judging panel award the special prize for an outstanding entry from somebody 21 years or under to:





2018 COMPETITION winners



The Prison Reform Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 writing competition.

The three categories were:

What is prison for?’ - a comment piece or article of no more than 500 words (click on the winner's initials to read their article)
  1. JH, the judges said the winner conveyed "a positive message that despite personal debilitation issues and the limits of prison life, motivated individuals can make prison work for them. Really impressive and a worthy winner"
  2. AB, the judges said this article was a "really creative, satirical piece without being too cynical. Clever and pointed with an underlying poignancy. A powerful thought provoker. Well done."
  3. RL, the judges said this piece was a "personal account of a family affected by how prison can be used positively – but ultimately has the sad, dangerous conclusion that prison can become “part of everyday life”. A portrait of prison as a double-edged sword."
    ME, the judges said this piece "was written by someone with a realistic and pro-active attitude to serving a prison sentence. The Personal Rules were a brilliant antidote to what prison can mean to so many who can’t see past the negative"

'Inside out' - a short story of no more than 1,000 words (click on the winner's initials to read their article)
  1. CA, the judges said the writer "tackles this story about an old man with a well-balanced mixture of compassion and humour … he keeps his characters believable throughout and has a good line in dialogue. Congratulations!"
  2. SDB, the judges said the story "is an evocative, moving piece, which uses the voice of “ghosts” to describe the world of prisoners. The ghosts of old prisoners and all the prisoners past make this a moving story and one that stays in the memory, something very special."
  3. MH, the judges said the piece "brings in humour and surprise to make the story more entertaining. Top marks too for the punchline …. It’s an effective use of the prescribed title."

'Speak out' - a rap/lyric of no more than 400 words (click on the winner's initials to read their article)
  1. DR, the judges said the winning poem "was punchily written, proud, positive and lyrical"
  2. WM, the judges said this poem "conveyed great imagery through clever use of words"
  3. TW, the judges said this piece "brilliantly evokes the shock of a first night in prison"
    KB, the judges said that this entry, "cleverly describes the internal torment of someone unable to speak out."

Special prize from an outstanding entry from somebody 21 years or under

JL, the judges said, "This succinct piece speaks volumes about the potentially corrosive impact of prison. The imagery is all so clear, the often overwhelmingly destructive transformative power of the prison journey is all too apparent. To have created such a realistically dystopian vision of prison in so few words is quite an achievement. Huge well done!’.

2017 competition winners



The Prison Reform Trust is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 writing competition.

The three categories were:

‘All in it Together: Fixing the Prison Community’ - a comment piece or article of no more than 500 words (click on the winner's name to read their article)

SC, the judges said the winning piece was "insightful and accurate"
FL, the judges said this article was "thought provoking"
MH, the judges said this piece was "touching and emotional"


'Life starts now' - a short story of no more than 1,000 words (click on the winner's name to read their article)

AS, the judges said he was "an excellent piece of storytelling"
TH, the judges said the story "full of intrigue"
EJ, the judges said the piece "gripping and different"


'Stand up and be counted' - a rap/lyric of no more than 400 words (click on the winner's name to read their article)

EG, the judges said the winning poem  "hinted at darkness but had a great twist"
CA, the judges "enjoyed the poem's fun and sense of mischief"
JT, the judges said this piecewas  "stirring and inspiring"

And the prize for an outstanding entry from an under 21-year-old went to:

MW, the judges said this was 'a well-argued, sensible piece from a young writer.'