The Inside Literary Prize is the first major US book award to be judged exclusively by people who are currently serving prison sentences.
The Center for Justice Innovation is committed to elevating the voices of those impacted by the legal system and building safe, strong, just communities. The Inside Literary Prize uses the power of books to support the dignity of those who are incarcerated, valuing their insight and celebrating our shared humanity.
— COURTNEY BRYAN
Executive Director, Center for Justice Innovation
A collaboration between Freedom Reads, the Center for Justice Innovation, the National Book Foundation, and Interabang Books co-owner Lori Feathers, the Inside Literary Prize will give 300 people currently incarcerated across six states the opportunity to leave their mark on the cultural conversation by selecting a winner among four recent books.
Organizers with the initiative will visit each prison to lead discussions with incarcerated people, facilitate the voting process, and host readings with award-winning authors. The jurors—women and men incarcerated in 12 different facilities—will announce the winning book in June 2024.
Through the reading and judging of leading American literary works, the Inside Literary Prize competition will provide a national platform for incarcerated individuals to meaningfully participate in our shared national cultural conversation. Freedom Reads could not be more proud to work with our partners on this initiative as we turn this vision into an annual reality. Freedom begins with a book.
— REGINALD DWAYNE BETTS
Founder and CEO, Freedom Reads
The books nominated for the Prize—all finalists for the 2022 National Book Awards—were selected by a committee of incarcerated people, writers, and librarians with the Department of Corrections.
Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch
Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House
Jamil Jan Kochai, The Haunting of Hajji Hotak and Other Stories
Viking Books / Penguin Random House
Ecco / HarperCollins Publishers
Roger Reeves, Best Barbarian
W. W. Norton & Company
The Inside Literary Prize fosters meaningful dialogue around some of the most exceptional books of our time. The National Book Foundation is proud to continue our partnership with Freedom Reads around this new initiative with the Center for Justice Innovation and Lori Feathers, which furthers our commitment to connect readers across the country with National Book Award–honored authors and their work.
— RUTH DICKEY
Executive Director, National Book Foundation
- A New Literary Prize Taps a Jury Living Behind Bars, The New York Times
300 Incarcerated People to Judge New US Literary Award, The Crime Report
- A Dallas bookstore owner wanted to engage inmates in reading. A national book prize was the result, Kera News
It is inspiring to partner with correctional facilities around the country to launch this literary prize that honors how engaging with great books can both build community and facilitate a deeper appreciation of our shared human experience.
— LORI FEATHERS
Co-Owner, Interabang Books