""Doing time.' For the prison writers whose work is included in this anthology, it means more than serving a sentence; it means staying alive and sane, preserving dignity, reinventing oneself, and somehow retaining one's humanity.
For the last quarter century the prestigious writers' organization PEN has sponsored a contest for writers behind bars to help prisoners face these challenges. Bell Chevigny, a writer herself and a former prison teacher, has selected the best of these submissions to create Doing Time-a vital work, demonstrating that prison writing is a vibrant part of American literature.
The fifty-one prisoners contributing to this volume deliver in singular voices surprising tales, lyrics, and dispatches from an alien world covering the life span of imprisonment, from terrifying initiations to poignant friendships, from confrontations with family to death row, and sometimes share extraordinary breakthroughs. With 1.8 million men and women-roughly the population of Houston-in American jails and prisons, we must listen to "this small country of throwaway people," in Prejean's words. Doing Time frees them from their sentence of silence. We owe it to ourselves to listen to their voices."