Literature in Prison

The Literature in Prison program took place from January – July 2016 at the Broad River Correctional Institute in Columbia. Fifteen inmates participated in the monthly reading and discussion opportunity, experiencing classic works of literature such as Of Mice and Men, The Odyssey, and Othello. South Carolina Humanities supported this program with a Fast Track Literary Grant.

The goal of the Literature in Prison program was to introduce inmates to serious works of literature in order to improve their literacy, awareness of the world, and empathy. Recent studies have shown that reading literature increases empathy for other human beings, something that many inmates’ previous experiences in and out of prison have deadened.

The participating inmates read and discussed seven books: Of Mice and Men (John Steinbeck), The Old Man and the Sea (Ernest Hemingway), A Lesson Before Dying (Ernest J. Gaines), Great Expectations (Charles Dickens), Othello (Shakespeare), Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick), and The Odyssey (Homer). They also were able to keep a copy of each book.

Project Director Nancy Kreml said: “I think {the program} was very successful in ways that are difficult to measure or report on. The men were engaged and enthusiastic and thought seriously about the books and the questions they raised. And they are lending them to other inmates.”

It is hoped that the project will continue at Broad River Correctional Institute and possibly also expand to other institutions. For more information about Literature in Prison, please contact Nancy Kreml at

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 22-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.