5 Formerly or Currently Incarcerated Writers on What Freedom Means to Them

·2-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

As part of our June/July Freedom issue, BAZAAR partnered with PEN America to commission a five-part essay series on the theme written by women who were formerly or are currently incarcerated. Titled Essays on Freedom, the collection was curated with the help of Caits Meissner, PEN America’s Director of Prison and Justice Writing, and features work by current and former PEN America Writing For Justice fellows.

Content warning: this series deals with topics including suicide and sexual assault.

Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

I Was Punished for Using AAVE as a Child, but Now I Wield It in Defiance

Criminal justice reform leader Vivian D. Nixon reflects back to hard-won lessons about the power of language as a young Black girl raised in a predominantly white town.

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Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

I’m Serving Life in Prison. Learning Not to Judge Others Has Set Me Free

Like most women in prison, before artist Ivié DeMolina was incarcerated, she was a survivor of unspeakable abuse. 26 years into her sentence, she became a peer supporter to a suicidal inmate with a triggering disorder, who ultimately inspired her to adopt a liberating philosophy of radical forgiveness.

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Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

I’ve Been Incarcerated for More than a Decade. Music and Literature Set Me Free

Elizabeth Hawes confronts the common notion that incarcerated people cease to evolve once locked behind prison walls, documenting how the arts aid her own pursuit of connection, contribution, and creativity.

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Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

Meeting Another Trans Woman in Men’s Prison Made Me Believe in My Future Again

As told to friend Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot, Vanessa Giselle del Rio reflects on how her mentorship of Penny, a fellow trans woman incarcerated in a men’s prison, gave her a sense of community and hope for the first time in her three decades behind bars.

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Photo credit: Getty
Photo credit: Getty

When My Abuser Pleaded Guilty, I Thought I'd Feel Free. Instead, I'm Trapped in My Trauma

Sarah Wang sharpens the lens on the justice system’s profound failure to protect and support assault and rape victims, and reflects on how her abuser's plea could never undo the suffering she endured.

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