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The Otago Daily Times has teamed with Corrections — and been backed by the University Book Shop (UBS) — to launch the New Chapters award.
The prize encourages inmates at Otago Corrections Facility and Invercargill Prison to get their creative juices flowing — sentences while serving sentences, if you like.
The two prisons will go head to head for a swag of literary prizes, which will be donated to the respective winner’s library by UBS.
Entries opened this week and writers will have until the end of September to craft their creative fiction.
OCF principal adviser for rehabilitation and learning Sherie Lucke said the prisons were already abuzz as posters went up around the facilities advertising the initiative.
"We already have men debating their ideas and putting pen to paper. It’s awesome to see," she said.
"There are so many talented people in prison. To give them an outlet like this can do wonders for their rehabilitation."
The prize was a great addition to the work already being done by many prisoners on attaining NCEA English credits, Ms Lucke added.
Prisoners will be judged on a range of categories including technical aspects of their writing — characterisation, storyline and narrative voice — as well as the overall impact and originality of their work.
ODT editor Barry Stewart said he was "delighted" to showcase the talents of those behind bars.
"We spend enough time and space writing about the exploits that land people in jail. Now it’s their time to shine," he said.
Over the next seven weeks the ODT will run a handful of the entries to give readers a flavour of the work being produced.
A fuller selection will appear online, allowing the public to vote and get behind their favourites.
Winners will be announced in October and the ODT will interview the men behind the top entries to discuss their inspiration.
During the writing process UBS will also provide a special guest to go behind the bars to help with the crafting process.
General manager Phillippa Duffy said she jumped at the chance to get on board when she heard whisperings about New Chapters at the start of the year.
"It seems that, as a City of Literature, to be bringing the joy, challenge and inspiration of creative writing into the prisons is a privilege to be part of," she said.
"These men will undoubtedly come from a vast range of backgrounds, but to be collectively part of a creative process I hope is something they enjoy and can continue after the competition."