John Purugganan

This page is updated and maintained by Robert Moulthrop, who met and contacted John after reading his essay "You're In Prison" originally published in The Sun, October 2006. Read about John and his achievements below, and keep an eye on the main blog, which often features short pieces written by John. 

In addition to correspondence with John Purugganan, this page also occasionally publishes the writing of life-without-parole prisoners Michael McKinney, John Catanzarite, and George Cameron.


John Purugganan is a writer who has been serving a sentence of life without parole since 1989 in the California prison system. His play, "Let's Keep Dancing" received a developmental reading by The Public Theater in New York City in June 2018, and was a prizewinner in the first annual Arts in Correction Playwriting Contest. John’s essay “Life Without Parole: The Shocking Reality” was the winning essay of its category at The Roundtable on the Future of Justice Policy hosted by The Square One Project, co-hosted by Merritt College and the Justice Lab at Columbia University. He was an associate editor of and contributor to “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough,” an anthology published by The Other Death Penalty Project collecting fiction, non-fiction, and poetry from prisoners serving life without parole. His essay “You’re In Prison” was published by The Sun in October 2006 (Issue 370) and was subsequently listed in the Notable Essays of 2006” section of the Best American Essays 2007, edited by David Foster Wallace and Robert Atwan. His essay “My Cellies,” published by qarrtsiluni in 2011, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His essays have been anthologized in Honor Comes Hard: Writings from California Prison System’s Honor Yard, edited by Luis J. Rodriguez and Lucinda Thomas, and Psychology and Personal Growth, by Nelson Goud and Abe Arkoff. His essay “Death Without the Possibility of Parole” received an honorable mention by the PEN America Prison Writing Awards 2012-2013, and both his poetry and non-fiction writing were listed as finalists for the INK: Prison Writing Contest, hosted by Vidahlia Press and Publishing House in 2014. His recent essay, “To Imagine Angels,” was published in WordsUncaged Prison Journal, and featured on Sentences Podcast, sponsored by the California State University, Los Angeles. 

Links To JOHN's Writing