Kenneth Hartman headshot.

Kenneth Hartman

Creative Nonfiction Writer

2024 Fellow


Kenneth Hartman (he/him) is an award-winning writer and prison reform activist. Sentenced to life without the possibility of parole at the age of nineteen, he served more than thirty-seven years in prison before former California Governor Brown commuted his sentence. He was paroled on December 20, 2017 and remains free.

Hartman wrote about his prison experiences in his essay “A Prisoner’s Purpose,” which won a John Templeton Foundation 2004 Power of Purpose Award. His book Mother California: A Story of Redemption Behind Bars (Atlas & Co., 2009) won the 2010 Eric Hoffer Award for memoir. He has written multiple features for Harper’s magazine, including an October 2019 piece on the experiences of paroled long-term prisoners and a December 2014 feature in which he describes three decades of prison Christmases.

Hartman is an internationally accredited life coach and a practicing community teaching artist working with reentry populations, adult learners, and conducting one-on-one creative writing coaching sessions. He is deeply involved in transforming the prison system through his work as Director of Advocacy of the Transformative In-Prison Workgroup. Hartman has also served as the Development Coordinator for several community-based organizations since his parole in 2017.