Witness: An Insider's Narrative Of the Carceral State
by Lyle C. May
Due out from Haymarket Books in the April 2024.
Witness: An Insider's Narrative of the Carceral State is a collection of essays and lectures that challenge common myths, misconceptions, and misinformation about the criminal legal system and life in prison. Written from North Carolina's congregate death row at Central Prison, Witness contains topics that explore capital punishment, life imprisonment, higher education in prison, journalism from the inside, penal philosophy, the politics of crime and punishment, activism around the Carceral state, and what it means to hold public officials accountable for the policies of mass incarceration. Witness provides first hand experience and scholarly insight that critiques major shifts in sentencing laws while countering classic criminological views that fuel draconian public responses to crime. Prisons are closed institutions despite being a public responsibility, and though much has been written about penal violence and the fundamental failure of American prisons, free world journalism cannot adequately report on what happens behind the wall. Witness seeks to fill that gap in its representation of issues that matter to incarcerated people, their friends and families, and anyone seeking to end mass incarceration.
Artwork by Monica Randazzo, a painter and illustrator who lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. For Monica's contact, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Two essays in the book Inside: Voices From Death Row also appear in Witness: An Insider's Narrative of the Carceral State. These essays are "Learning to Die" and "A Confirmation of Faith". Learning to Die was originally published in the Copper Nickel. A Confirmation of Faith was originally published in America Magazine under the title " Sealed With a Gift: What Being on Death Row Taught Me About Life", Vol.226, No.3, Whole No.5273, March, 2022. These essays are republished because their topics are critical to remembering the humanity of those the State has executed and seeks to execute.
Break Out 2022 Livestream
"Y'all Ain't Here To Be Rehabilitated" by Lyle C. May was read by actor Asia Kate Dillon at the Pen America Prison Writing Awards Reading & Launch in partnership with Brooklyn Public Library on December 2nd. Read Lyle's essay published on Open Campus Media here.
Southern Criminal Justice Association Conference
Lyle recently spoke at the Southern Criminal Justice Association Conference, which took place in Asheville, North Carolina, on September 15. He gave a speech as the first of six panelists to talk about some element of long-term imprisonment and the death penalty.
A transcription of his speech is available on our website!
Inside: Voices From Death Row
Inside: Voices from Death Row is the second edition of the originally titled Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row. Both books were edited by Tessie Castillo and coauthored by Lyle C. May, Michael Braxton, Terry Robinson, and George Wilkerson. Inside: Voices from Death Row was released by Scuppernong Books on September 15th 2022. The collection of essays covers various periods in the coauthors lives in and out of prison as they try to make sense of their different, yet parallel, trajectories that ultimately converge on North Carolina's death row. For more information go to tessiecastillo.com