John J. Lennon is an acclaimed prison journalist, contributing editor at Esquire, and lead writer for the Prison Letters Project, which brings together the Law and Racial Justice Center at Yale Law School and Freedom Reads, a first-of-its-kind organization that uses literature to confront the hopelessness and desperation that accompany time served in prison. Alongside several well-known writers, performers, and athletes, Lennon is also a Freedom Reads Ambassador and works to further the organization’s mission by showing people inside what’s possible through words.
As a journalist writing from behind the wall, Lennon has published major features about gun control, prison reform and rehabilitation, mental illness behind bars, day-to-day life in prison, and the pandemic experience while incarcerated. His 2018 Esquire article, “This Place is Crazy,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Feature Writing and anthologized in Best American Magazine Writing 2019. Later, his piece “The Apology Letter” was one of the three features in the Washington PostMagazine’s special prison issue, which went on to win the 2020 National Magazine Award for a single-topic issue.
Currently serving 28 years to life for drug dealing and murder at Sullivan Correctional Facility in New York, Lennon entered the prison system with a ninth-grade education. A creative writing workshop in Attica sparked his prolific career in journalism, and his first essay was published in The Atlantic in 2013. Since then, his writing has appeared in the New York Times and the Times magazine, New York Review of Books, Men’s Health, Sports Illustrated, New York, and VICE. His first book, The Tragedy of True Crime, will be published in 2024