ATLANTA—Georgia State University has received a $669,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation to establish a literary journal written by, for and with the incarcerated community.
The grant will support the founding of the literary journal, Beyond Bars, a collaborative undertaking between the university, the Georgia State University Prison Education Project, the non-profit organization Common Good Atlanta and the prison community of Georgia. The project seeks to open doors for incarcerated writers and editors, allow their voices to be heard and connect them to the Georgia State campuses through their work alongside graduate students from the university.
“We are honored by the Mellon Foundation’s continued partnership with Georgia State and their belief in the significance of our mission of ensuring students, no matter their background, can succeed and our commitment to uplifting underserved communities,” said Georgia State University President Dr. M. Brian Blake. “The Mellon Foundation’s support of this innovative project will create unique and meaningful opportunities for students within and outside the Panther community and provide them with valuable experiences that will help prepare them for future success.”
Beyond Bars will be overseen by an editorial board composed of four Georgia State creative writing graduate students and three incarcerated students, a first-of-its kind editorial structure for a literary publication. Over three years, this team will produce six issues of the literary journal containing poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and artwork created and submitted by incarcerated people across the nation. As editorial board members, the incarcerated editors will be able to gain the resources and employable skills necessary to support themselves after their release from the carceral system, a critical factor for reducing recidivism. They will also be eligible for earmarked grants upon release.
Overseeing the project as principal investigator will be Georgia State distinguished professor of English Beth Gylys, who will be supported by co-principal investigators Megan Sexton, Sarah Higinbotham and Elizabeth Beck, professor of social work in the university’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. Gylys and Sexton, senior academic professionals and editors of literary and arts journal Five Points, will select, train and oversee the Georgia State graduate student editors. Beck will work with the incarcerated editors in creating the journal. Higinbotham, an assistant professor at Emory University’s Oxford College and co-founder of Common Good Atlanta, serves as the project’s liaison with the Georgia Department of Corrections.
“I am so grateful to the Mellon Foundation for supporting Beyond Bars and thrilled at the chance to help highlight and celebrate the essential and often sidelined talents of incarcerated writers and artists,” said Gylys, Distinguished University Professor of English at Georgia State. “I am also excited for the graduate students who work on the journal – that they will have this unique and meaningful opportunity to build connections within and a deeper understanding of the incarcerated community.”
Beyond Bars continues the university’s longstanding collaboration with the Georgia Department of Corrections, highlighted by the Georgia State University Prison Education Project and the institute’s partnership with Common Good Atlanta. With the university’s institutional support, both projects have expanded educational opportunities for incarcerated students.
“Our mission of protecting and serving the public could not be accomplished without the assistance of our community partners,” said GDC Commissioner Tyrone Oliver. “We appreciate the support from Common Good Atlanta in their efforts to assist with providing opportunities for education and growth to those incarcerated.
Through its arts and humanities grants, the Mellon Foundation seeks to build just communities enriched by meaning and empowered by critical thinking, where ideas and imagination can thrive. A longtime supporter of Georgia State and its mission, the Mellon Foundation has awarded the university multiple grants over the last 20 years, including two grants totaling more than $2.75 million in 2022.
Discover the ways the Mellon Foundation is making a difference at mellon.org.
Explore some of the many ways Georgia State’s philanthropic partners and individual donors are helping students succeed at giving.gsu.edu.