Bringing hope and opportunity to inmates in Minnesota county jails

FreeWriters provides our fellow citizens behind bars a much-needed chance for creative expression and emotional release — and inspiration for a future free of incarceration.


About FreeWriters

FreeWriters is the only organization in Minnesota providing daily creative writing opportunities specifically for county jail inmates.

We reach these inmates at a crucial time in their lives, as they sit in jail for days, weeks, months, and sometimes years – with no access to emotional wellness programming or any time outdoors – while awaiting oft-delayed court dates. The FreeWriters approach helps inmate-writers see that they already possess the talent and will to choose a more rewarding, less perilous path. We help participants develop transformative personal insight and provide a sorely needed boost in confidence.

Get in touch

Nate Johnson, Executive Director

About Our Founder
Nate Johnson is a former prosecuting attorney, veteran, and lifelong lover of literature and creative writing. Nate leads FreeWriters classes for current inmate-writers, as well as community-based writing groups for former inmates and other local writers. He also regularly participates in writing workshops through the Loft Literary Center and the University of Minnesota.


whenever FREEWRITERS is in that classroom something special is happening and….PRICELESS \ like the world’s best kept secret i don’t want to keep describing it \ I want to share it, promote it because I believe in it. — T.A. (2020)

I don’t like to sit in the unit \ Having the same ole conversations on the daily \ So I come to this free-writers class \ I’m sitting here writing to these prompts \ Because it frees my mind \ Puts my head in a good space. — S.A. (2020)

I like this class. There is real stories being told. Deep and bold. I feel no tension inside. The most important part: WE make this class. Sharing is expressive, it can be good or bad what you share. But I feel positive about this. I plan to keep writing today. — M.X. (2019)

This is a place to escape the harsh realities of our situations / To open our minds and let the creative juices flow / To smile and laugh / To share our thoughts / Just for a minute, I feel like I am not an inmate / A little less worried of what others may think of me / A few days ago, I hit the one-year mark / No contact from the outside world / And now this minute of class makes a huge difference.  — E.S. (2021)