Works of Justice is an online series that features content connected to the PEN America Prison and Justice Writing Program, reflecting on the relationship between writing and incarceration, and presenting challenging conversations about criminal justice in the United States.

A Question of Justice

As part of an effort to share our work with a national audience, the PEN America Prison and Justice Writing Program Team has created a series of media outputs from our events, including video and audio formats. We invite you to follow the feeds on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play, and YouTube.

We’re introducing these assets with A Question of Justice. Many Americans agree that our criminal justice system needs thorough reform—but how can public sentiment lead to effective systemic changes? On May 11, 2019, as part of the PEN America World Voices Festival, the Prison and Justice Writing Program team staged a dynamic debate moderated by Andrea J. Ritchie that featured six of PEN America’s Writing For Justice Fellows, as well as experts in New York City-based reform efforts. The conversation, which borrowed from artist Lois Weaver’s experimental “Long Table” model, fostered dialogue about difficult subjects by combining the comfortable informality of a private dinner party setting with the urgency of public debate. Panelists and audience members brought their questions, comments, and opinions to help confront this defining issue of our time.

Watch the video below, or listen to an audio file of the riveting dialogue between Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot, Keeonna Harris, Priscilla Ocen, David Sanchez, Beth Shelburne, David Heska Wanbli Weiden, Kandra Clark, Lorenzo Jones, Fred Patrick, Marlon Peterson, and Bianca Tylek. Biographies for each participant can be found here.

Recently our community lost an incredible advocate. We would like to acknowledge the life of Fred Patrick, whose commitment to justice reform and advocacy for the human dignity of all incarcerated people shines in his contributions in the debate below. Fred brought a light-infused pragmatism that made a profound impact on our team. Thank you, Fred. You will be missed.


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