Damascus James on Witnessing, Letter Writing, and Solitary Confinement

Damascus James on Witnessing, Letter Writing, and Solitary Confinement

In January 2023, people incarcerated throughout the state of Texas organized a collective hunger strike to demand better living conditions. Months before, Canada native Damascus James had relocated to Texas from New York City, and began to write letters to incarcerated people in the state in order to develop connections with isolated communities. From his initial correspondence with one writer, James got connected with several people, including many who had been placed in solitary confinement for years. The letters he received multiplied as word spread within the prison systems, with people reaching out to share their experiences with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and other personal stories. From these letters, James developed TEXAS LETTERS , an anthology series of letters penned by individuals in Texas living in solitary confinement. In the latest episode of PEN America's Works of Justice podcast, Malcolm Tariq, senior manager of editorial projects, speaks with James his inspiration to start the project, his process of compiling the first volume of the series, and what he has learned from developing friendships with one of the nation's most vulnerable populations. Below is an excerpt from the transcript of the podcast. Click here to read the full transcript. Malcolm Tariq: So today we're joined by Damascus James, editor of TEXAS LETTERS . Thank you so much for joining us today. Damascus James: Thanks for having me, Malcolm. Malcolm Tariq: I'm really excited to talk to you about this project, when the book came into the office, we were all very excited. I think it's a very big book. And you have the original letters in there, the transcribed letters. It all just seems like a really dope project and a lot to learn about. It's an immersive experience. So, thank you for all of the work you did to bring this book to life and to bring more attention to solitary confinement. Damascus James: Thank you. No, thank you for having me and for helping, you know, bring awareness to it and to showcase these letters that are very, very important to me, but will hopefully […]

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