6 episodes

Works of Justice is an online literary series and podcast from PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing that explores the relationship between writing and incarceration, and challenges current conversations about criminal justice in the United States.

PEN America Works of Justice PEN America Prison and Justice Writing

    • Arts

Works of Justice is an online literary series and podcast from PEN America’s Prison and Justice Writing that explores the relationship between writing and incarceration, and challenges current conversations about criminal justice in the United States.

    Keeda J. Haynes on Second-Chance Culture and Standing in Her Truth

    Keeda J. Haynes on Second-Chance Culture and Standing in Her Truth

    In Bending the Arc: My Journey from Prison to Politics (Seal Books, 2021), Keeda J. Haynes pulls back the veil on what happens in the criminal legal system. In a series of events, Haynes went from working as a correctional officer in a local jail to serving time in federal prison for a crime she did not commit. Having later completed law school and served as a public defender, Haynes has the unique perspective of experiencing the system from several personal viewpoints, including that of running for Congress. In the latest episode of PEN America’s Works of Justice podcast, PEN America Postgraduate Fellow Emma Stammen talks with Haynes about what inspired her to share this compelling story, working in the legal system after her incarceration, and the experience of revisiting her time in prison 18 years later.

    • 34 min
    Marlon Peterson on Harm, Healing, and Breaking Free

    Marlon Peterson on Harm, Healing, and Breaking Free

    Marlon Peterson’s Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionist’s Freedom Song (Bold Type Books, 2021) is a poignant look at what it means to transform one’s life by taking accountability. Tracing Peterson’s life from his childhood in Brooklyn to his journey to becoming a writer after 10 years of incarceration, the memoir grapples with the devastating impacts of interpersonal and systemic violence. At its core, the book is one of vulnerability, love, and hope.

    PEN America Postgraduate Fellow Emma Stammen talks with Peterson about what inspired him to write, and how his understanding of abolition transcends the physical prison space.

    • 24 min
    Dorothy E. Roberts on Ending the Child Welfare System to Build Safer Futures

    Dorothy E. Roberts on Ending the Child Welfare System to Build Safer Futures

    PEN America Prison and Justice Writing Postgraduate Fellow Sophia Ramirez interviews legal scholar, sociologist, and social justice advocate Dorothy E. Roberts about her new book, Torn Apart: How the Child Welfare System Destroys Black Families—and How Abolition Can Build a Safer World, which peels back the benevolent façade of the child welfare system, revealing the cruel and oppressive structures within. Roberts calls for the abolition of the system, advocating for community-based responses. Ramirez and Roberts discuss the child welfare system’s racist origins, carceral logic, and the destruction it deals to Black families and minority communities.

    • 37 min
    Mahogany L. Browne on Collectivism, Bearing Witness, and Unhanding the Ego

    Mahogany L. Browne on Collectivism, Bearing Witness, and Unhanding the Ego

    PEN American Prison and Justice Writing Director Caits Meissner talks with Lincoln Center Poet-In-Residence Mahogany L. Browne about Browne’s new Choreopoem, "Quilted Steele," premiering at Lincoln Center on June 13, 2022. The two discuss Browne's process for writing the choreopoem, collaboration, and caring for oneself and community while confronting and witnessing injustice.

    • 41 min
    Derecka Purnell on the Necessary Unlearning of Policing

    Derecka Purnell on the Necessary Unlearning of Policing

    PEN America Prison and Justice Writing Postgraduate Fellow Sophia Ramirez speaks with Derecka Purnell about her latest book, Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. In this episode, Purnell discusses the meaning of abolition, the problem with social media activism, and what keeps us hopeful when pushing for change.

    • 31 min
    David Sanchez on Addiction, Subjectivity, and Selfhood

    David Sanchez on Addiction, Subjectivity, and Selfhood

    PEN America Postgraduate Fellow Emma Stammen talks with 2018-2019 Writing for Justice Fellow David Sanchez about his debut novel All Day is a Long Time—a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story encompassing addiction, mental illness, homelessness, incarceration, and sobriety.

    • 26 min