English PEN

Writers in Prison

There are over 900 writers around the world who are imprisoned for what they've written. We work to try and help get the writers released as well as support their families at a difficult time in their lives. We also let the writers we are working for know that people have not forgotten them.

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Registered Charity in England and Wales (1125610)




  • Arts/Culture/HeritageArts/Culture/Heritage
  • Human Rights/AdvocacyHuman Rights/Advocacy




The problem is that imprisoning writers for what they have written is contrary to free speech and prevents the circulation of ideas as well as chilling disclosure, dissent and disagreement which can hinder a nation's growth. The problem is also that writers - artists who use words - should not be locked up, because it is often to the detriment of their safety and health, and can mean they are separated from their friends and family, whilst being at risk of torture and persecution.


We solve the problem by taking on around 50 cases each year, as one of 144 PEN centres around the world. We do everything from arrange diplomatic meetings, send campaigning letters, work with publishers to send books to prisoners, protest outside Embassies and promote extraordinary cases to the British press. When we can we apply for relief funds for imprisoned writers' families to support them during difficult times.