The art awards scheme for offenders, secure patients and detainees

We’re the UK’s best-known prison arts charity. We’ve been awarding, exhibiting and selling artworks by offenders, detainees and secure patients for over 55 years.

Our awards receive over 8,000 entries a year – inspiring offenders to take part in the arts, work for achievement and transform their lives. Our national exhibition attracts 20,000 visitors – showing the public the talent and potential of offenders and people in secure settings.

We have no endowment or capital – our work depends entirely on donations.

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Visitors read Chemical Cash Cow, HM Prison Glenochil, Platinum Award for Poem, at Re:Form, 2015


Poetry and prose has a long tradition in secure establishments and the criminal justice system. With the only materials a pen and paper, we receive thousands of written entries each year. Poetry is the most popular type of Awards submission – with around 3,000 poems each submitted annually across Poem, Anthology, Poetry Collection and our Themed Category. Other written categories of the Koestler Awards include:

  • Flash Fiction and Short Story
  • Longer Fiction and Novel
  • Non-Fiction, Blog, Essay, Article and Review
  • Life Story
  • Braille
  • Poem
  • Poetry Collection
  • Anthology
  • Stage Play
  • Radio Play
  • Screenplay
  • Song Writing

We look for innovative ways to present writing to the public, within exhibitions, books, events and posters. Recent showcases of written entries to the Koestler Awards include artist Janetka Platun’s LIGHTS OUT installation (2014), A Stranger on the Shore pull-out poster, illustrated by Melissa Castrillon (2015) and booklet Home of the Soul (2015), edited by the STIR team at HM Prison Shotts.

>View Writing Gallery


Home of the Soul - Cover

Home of the Soul, Koestler Award-winning Writing form Scotland, 2015

A Stranger On The Shore

A Stranger on the Shore, Anthology of Writings from the West Midlands, 2015

> click on covers to download


Lights-Out-Installation light and dark

Lights Out installation by artist Janetka Platun in Catching Dreams exhibition, Southbank Centre, London, 2014

> click on image to download