“An ink pen was the only way to carve a voice out of the air and have others hear it.” — Reginald Dwayne Betts
The Oklahoma Prison Writers and Artists Foundation (OPWAF) is a 503c non-profit that supports and promotes the work and voices of writers and artists incarcerated in the Oklahoma prison system.
OPWAF recognizes the momentary liberatory, yet healing and humanizing power of the creative process. Our mission is to serve as a conduit between incarcerated writers and artists and greater public audiences who will read their writing, view their artwork, and hear the stories they have to tell in their own voices and with their own images and words.
OPWAF seeks to expand the opportunity for creativity within the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. Creative work liberates in the moment it’s being done. The writer or artist immersed in the work feels the ego drop away and often has an expansive sense of the universe. For incarcerated artists, this is profound. At the same time, there is the history and lived reality that led to incarceration that must be grappled with and better understood, something that can be done through the creative arts. And finally, there is the voice, something many people on the outside take for granted. I have a voice, whether it be through voting or writing and publishing or telling stories to my friends and family. When you’re incarcerated, often you feel voiceless and unheard. To write, or paint, or sculpt something and then have people on the inside and outside hear or see and acknowledge that work—this is quite powerful for incarcerated artists who feel they’ve been forgotten, dismissed, or written off.