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.

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)

What am I doing in this class? I’m finally being heard. I’m here letting myself free upon paper, and after, I share to the world what I’ve created. It’s new to me / the old class clown with a B or C average, finally being in front of the class with something people want to hear. They wait and they listen. They actually understand and at the end I get an applause of hands. For once I’m not people pleasing to be heard. — R.K. (2021)

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)

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.