Writing Within Walls Mentoring Programme

Our mentoring programme inspires prisoners and ex-offenders

to build their confidence and gain access into the publishing industry.

Writing Within Walls so far, we have...

  • Published 15+ authors as part of our Writing Within Walls collection
  • Employed 3+ mentors with lived experience of custody
  • Matched up mentees with literary agencies, publishers and experienced authors across the UK to introduce them to the publishing industry
  • Expanded our network to prisons in England and Scotland
  • Ran two National Writing Competitions for people with experience of custody (prisoners, former offenders and those on probation)


Our mentoring programme tackles the widespread disadvantages that can hinder rehabilitation by championing aspiring writers in prison and providing employment to people with experience of custody.


Did you know...

Writing Within Walls Infographic


Prison. It is a word that conjures up loss, bleakness and despair.

But behind this are human stories and hope.

Our mentoring programme is designed to reach these human stories and voices with the aim of setting the foundations for rehabilitation and tackling challenges that are specific to prisoners. The purpose of this programme is multifaceted: it provides an opportunity for mentees to gain insight into the publishing industry, it helps participants develop transferable skills for future employment, and the mental health benefits of providing a creative outlet is invaluable. Over the course of 6 months, mentees communicate via letter with a professional mentor to help refine and develop their literacy skills. Mentees will have the opportunity to publish their work through our publishing branch, Arkbound.

How to participate

Any current or former prisoner is able to participate with our Writing Within Walls programme. This also applies to those who are in, or formerly in, Young Offender Institutes, Immigration Removal Centers and Secure Hospitals.

How does the mentoring program work for those in custody?

Step 1 - Prisoners send us a sample of their work through the post.

Step 2 - We send them an application to get a sense of their skill level and area of interest within creative writing. We then pair them with a mentor with similar interests who we feel can best support them.

Step 3 - The prisoners  will send us a letter, including a writing sample, once a month, which we will forward to their mentor. Once the mentor has provided us with feedback and support, this will be sent by us back to the prisoner.

The program duration is for approximately 6 months, during which six exchanges via post will occur between mentee and mentor. Both the mentee's and mentor's names are anonymised for safety, to avoid prejudice, and so both parties can focus on nurturing a professional relationship with a focus on improving the prisoners' writing skills.

National Creative Writing Competition 2022

As part of the Writing Within Walls program, we are currently running a creative writing competition for prisoners and ex-prisoners. Anyone who has a passion for writing and has experience of custody is eligible. This might include having experience being held in prison, IRCs (Immigration Removal Centres), young offender's institutions or secure hospitals. Submissions should be maximum 1000 words long, centre around this year's theme of 'endurance,' and can be written in any form (i.e. a short story, an essay, a poem, an article, etc.). The competition deadline is on Monday 14th of November.

The top 3 candidates will receive a cash prize of £25, and the 17 runners up will receive a cash prize of £10. All top 20 entries will also be published in a collected anthology which will be sold on the charity's website, with all proceeds going towards the Writers Within Walls programme. The anthology comprising of winning entries from the 2020 competition can be purchased here.

The winners of the competition will be selected by a panel of 3 judges who have a creative writing background or have worked extensively with prisoners in an educational capacity. Two of our judges this year include Natascha Alderson-Pollock of WEA, and Tevfick Souleiman from the Forward Trust, who are helping to support the competition.

If you know anyone who is currently in prison and might be interested in this opportunity, be sure to let them know! Prisoners should make sure to include their Prisoner ID number and a return address. Please send any email entries to zoe@arkfound.org. Entries by post can be sent to our offices in Glasgow at the following address:

Arkbound Foundation,

Rogart Street Campus,

4 Rogart St. Bridgerton,

Glasgow G40 2AA

Get involved

Are you interested in becoming a volunteer or do you work with an organisation that would be interested in sharing the programme with your network? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Get in touch with us by sending an email to the Writing Within Walls project coordinator, Zoe McClellan, at zoe@arkfound.org.

We are grateful for the support of the Old Possum's Practical TrustMatrix Causes Fund, The Forward Trust, WEA and other generous patrons who contributed to our 'Mentoring Prisoners and Ex-Offenders' Crowdfund in the delivery of this project.