Inmates Explore Creativity through Writing Contest Organized by Heard

September 8, 2022: Our thanks to the City of Alexandria Sheriff’s Department for this coverage of our writing contest with the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center. So many people worked so hard to make this contest a success, and we extend a special shoutout to our judges: Mary Wadland, publisher of The Zebra, historian, genealogist and author Char McCargo Bah, and Zeina Azzam, Alexandria’s poet laureate.

And an even bigger shoutout to Sheriff Sean Casey and the detention center team! We are so grateful for their support and the hours of logistics that a virtual awards ceremony takes. That said, let’s hope that next year our awards ceremony can be in person again! You can read the entire article here.

Local Inmates Win Awards for Creative Writing Contest, The Zebra, September 6, 2021

One of our favorite parts about our annual writing contests that we hold with the Alexandria Adult Detention Center and the Arlington County Detention Facility is the enthusiasm of our returning judges to be part of this event. Each of them has a strong background in writing, editing, and publishing, and each year they tell me and our authors (during the awards ceremonies) how much they appreciate this honor. Our judge Mary Wadland, Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, gives an insightful and interesting glimpse into what she learned and how she felt reading these inmate’s stories. “The Claw“, the first place fiction winner from the Alexandria Adult Detention Center, “had me on the edge of my seat…”, she write. Me too. Read Mary’s entire feature here.

Sharing our Poetry with Voices Unbarred and The Justice Arts Coalition

We created a little magic with Voices Unbarred and The Justice Arts Coalition! First, allow us to introduce our friends: Voices Unbarred is a nonprofit theater company whose actors were all once incarcerated. Lori Pitts created this amazing nonprofit, and will perform double duty in January as their founder and as the Artistic Director of the Ally Theatre Company. In October and November of 2021, Voices Unbarred actors read and performed at events hosted by The Justice Arts Coalition, run by the amazing Wendy Jason, throughout greater Washington.

We were thrilled when we contacted Lori and she asked us to send some of our favorite poems for the Voices Unbarred actors to read. It was hard to choose among all of the great poetry on our site, and eventually we sent “I Cry“, “Tough Love,” and “Untitled” – all prize winners written by authors from the Alexandria Adult Detention Center and the Arlington County Detention Facility.

Lori was gracious enough to share these photos with us, and we want to share them with you.

On the left, actors perform during the “We Belong Here: Reclaiming Space through Art” event on October 24 at Rhizome DC.

On the right, Lori and four Voices Unbarred actors strike a pose during The Justice Arts Coalition’s “Incarceration and Creation: Art as a Human Need” on November 6 at the Sandy Spring Museum.

This is not the last time you will hear from us working together to help the formerly and currently incarcerated be heard…stay tuned!

Our Director, Jane Collins, on Fox 5 DC

Did you know our founder and executive director, Jane Collins, is also an Air Force veteran? She served from 1981 – 2009 as an active duty and reservist, and was also attached to an Air National Guard unit in Springfield, Ohio. Talk about total force! Jane retired at the rank of colonel and continued serving in her post-Air Force life. Listen as Gwen Tolbart of DC Fox 5 interviews her about the importance of sharing stories as part of the Library of Congress’ Veteran’s Stories: The Veterans History Project. This is the largest oral history project in U. S. History.

Are you a veteran? You need to be heard! Share your story here.

From the Alexandria Gazette Packet – Voices to be Heard

“We are extremely grateful for Heard’s continued outreach and engagement with those in our custody.”

— Sheriff Dana Lawhorne

And we are grateful to the Alexandria Gazette Packet for promoting the winners of our writing contest with the Alexandria Adult Detention Center. You are always so supportive of our work! Btw, did you know that you made Mr. Pixley and Mr. Talbert’s day? They were each given a copy of your article and were sooooo happy! Thank you for allowing them to be heard! Scroll down to page 7 to see our winners or read it here:


From – Tales of regret and hope win in creative writing contest at the Alexandria Jail

In his award-winning poem “I Cry”, Anthony Talbert laments over being incarcerated in the Alexandria Jail.

“Growing up I was told that the eyes are the windows to the soul,” reads Talbert’s poem. “So I cry to cleanse my soul of all the torment it holds.”

You can’t not be moved by Talbert’s first-place poem and the tears he sheds for everyone – you, me, Jesus, himself. You can read his entire work and more about our writing contest in


Tales of regret and hope win in creative writing contest at the Alexandria Jail