The writing contest was organized by Jane Hess Collins and Heard, a creative arts initiative that provides marginalized adults the opportunity to be heard with the guidance of professional artists experienced in working with at-risk adults.
Through this program, inmates had the chance to write original works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction and then submit them in a competition. The panel of judges – City of Alexandria Poet Laureate KaNikki Jakarta, The Zebra Publisher/Editor-in-Chief Mary Wadland, and Georgetown University Professor Mike Long – considered each submission’s technical and artistic strength when selecting the winners.
Then on August 22, the Sheriff’s Office held a ceremony at the jail to recognize the award winners and all the participants. Sheriff Dana Lawhorne and members of his command and Inmate Services staff welcomed Ms. Collins, Heard’s founder and director, and other Heard representatives, including Michael Collins, Solveig Eggerz and Sharmila Karamchandani.
Ms. Collins welcomed and thanked guests, participants, and Sheriff’s Office staff before Gloria Wright, the Alternative Programs Manager, announced the first, second and third place award winners. Four of the honorees were present to receive their awards, but some of the finalists were released prior to the ceremony.
In the nonfiction category, Michael Pixley took the top honors for “The Glass Window” and Joshua Mann finished second for “Bridge Building.” In fiction, Nicholas DeLuca won the top prize for his work, “Bliss,” and Hashim Barner finished first in poetry for his untitled entry. Honorees received certificates and monetary prizes, donated by Heard and The Zebra, which were added to the winners’ accounts to cover personal expenses.
After the awards presentation, two honorees shared their winning entries with the audience. Mr. DeLuca read “Bliss” (above) and Mr. Barner read his poem (below), and both were extremely well received by the audience of inmates, Heard representatives, and Sheriff’s Office staff.
In his closing remarks, Sheriff Lawhorne thanked everyone who made the program and contest a success. He also spoke about the importance of writing and encouraged everyone to keep writing so they could effectively share their ideas.
The Sheriff’s Office thanks Ms. Collins for coordinating the contest and Heard and The Zebra for the donating the prizes.