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New Book Shares The View From Inside North Carolina’s Death Row

Headshots of Tessie Castillo, Lyle May and three other co-authors of "Crimson Letters"
Tessie Castillo

The criminal justice system puts prisoners out of sight and out of mind for the public. But the recently published book “Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row” (Black Rose Writing/2020) aims to draw back the veil on the people and realities that make up North Carolina’s death row. 

Through their essays, four men on death row describe how their lives led them into the criminal justice system. The men tell stories of childhoods influenced by crime and violence, abuses administered by guards in prison and the experience of saying goodbye to friends before they are led to execution. The book challenges readers to remember the humanity of men on death row and to not simply write them off as “monsters.” The deeply personal essays share each man’s journey to finding meaning to a life overshadowed by death. Host Frank Stasio talks with Tessie Castillo and Lyle May, co-authors of “Crimson Letters,” about the stories and the process of writing the book. Castillo is a journalist and public speaker, and May is a prisoner at Raleigh’s Central Prison. Castillo also hosts virtual book clubs for interested readers.

Kaia Findlay is the lead producer of Embodied, WUNC's weekly podcast and radio show about sex, relationships and health. Kaia first joined the WUNC team in 2020 as a producer for The State of Things.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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