from The Yale Law Journal
The Yale Law Journal is conducting a writing contest for prisoners. Prisoners currently or recently in jail are invited to write a short essay about their experiences with the law. The three top submissions will win cash prizes, and the best work will be published.
The Journal is one of the world’s most respected and widely read scholarly publications about the law. Authors and readers include law professors and students, practicing attorneys, and judges. The Contest offers people in prison the chance to share their stories with people who shape the law and to explain how the law affects their lives. Where permitted by state law, the authors of the winning essays will receive prizes: $250 for first place, $100 for second place, and $50 for third place.
Essays must address one of the following questions:
- What does fair treatment look like in prison?
- How does your institution deal with inmates who are violent or disruptive? Are people sent to solitary confinement? Is the disciplinary system fair, and does it help to maintain order?
- Tell us about a notable or surprising experience you’ve had with another person in the legal system—whether a judge, a lawyer, a guard, or anyone else. What did you learn from it?
- The goals of criminal punishment include retribution (giving people what they deserve), deterrence (discouraging future crimes), and rehabilitation (improving behavior). What purpose, if any, has your time in prison served? Should one of these purposes be emphasized more?
- Have you ever filed a grievance with jail or prison authorities to complain about conditions? Tell us about it, and explain how the grievance process works. Are grievances effective? How do prison authorities respond to them? How do you feel about federal law’s requirement that prisoners file grievances before suing about prison conditions in court?
- If you have been released from prison, what challenges did you face in reentering society?
- How, if at all, do you maintain relationships with your family while in prison? Describe the prison rules that govern how much contact you can have with your family. How has being in prison affected your family relationships?
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