Nonfiction Book Award Status: SILVER
Prison From the Inside Out is both a book and an act of trust: A black man from New Jersey and a white woman from New York meet in a workshop at a North Carolina prison. They decide they have something to tell the world about incarceration, self-esteem, personal growth, survival, and the power of trust. Together they have created this book.
“Mecca” – William Elmore
In 1993 Mecca was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced at the age of 23 to spend his natural life in prison. He had been dealing drugs, shot a gun, and a man had died. Mecca fired in self-defense, but the jury disagreed. Before trial, Mecca was offered a plea which stated that the shooting was planned and that he had fired with intent to kill. Mecca refused to sign. For the next 24 years, he lived as a “lifer” in eleven North Carolina prisons.
Since his release, Mecca has committed himself to outreach. He works with youth through RSN, a support network for young people with problems related to addiction, In addition, Mecca is involved in prison ministry, mediation, arbitration support, and teaches job-readiness workshops at Step Up Ministries in Durham. He is a founder and lead facilitator for Wounded Healers to provide support to justice-involved individuals. The Human Kindness Foundation added him to their Board of Directors. Outside of work, Will is an avid athlete and a certified personal trainer.
“Simone” – Susan Simone
Simone is a documentary photographer and oral historian. Her documentary projects include the exhibition We Are All Housekeepers, a study of labor history on the UNC campus, Fotos del Pueblo, an early look at the emerging Latinx community in North Carolina, Habitat For Humanity: Celebration 2000, and Nepal and Tibet: The People Who Live in Shangri-La, a collaboration with Nepali poet Manjul.
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Simone served as the coordinator of the Prison Pen Pal Project for the North Carolina Writer’s Network, pairing professional writers with aspiring incarcerated writers. She also taught creative non-fiction in the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women. In 2009, Simone began offering a workshop at the Orange Correctional Center in Hillsborough, NC, incorporating writing, film, art, and spoken word in an eclectic weekly learning circle.
When she is not doing her part to stop mass incarceration, Simone works as a technical writer, editor, and yoga instructor. Her previous written work includes numerous short-form fiction and technical publications and the books The CRC Card Book (Addison Wesley) and The Structured Systems Development Manual (Prentice Hall).
Great honor and excellent choice! Thank you for recognizing their work.