While on death row, Lyle May earned an associates of arts degree from Ohio University. He is currently enrolled in a bachelor's program in criminal justice administration. Lyle has written for The Marshall Project, The J Journal, Prison Writers, and maintains a blog at BeyondSteelDoors.com. You can also find his memoir, Waiting For The Last Train on Amazon.
Editor’s note: Since 2016, Death Row prisoner Lyle May has provided Scalawag readers with critical insights into North Carolina’s criminal justice system. From lyrical essays that humanize prisoners, to reporting that unpacks complex policies, May’s writing has expressed bold truths from one of the most marginalized parts of society. And he’s accomplished this under increasingly difficult conditions, which have interfered with his ability to do this work.
Most recently, May has been inexplicably denied access to college coursework for a degree program he was completing. Other prisoners have been denied access to higher education as well, while officials in the state Department of Public Safety have announced that the agency is in “dark days” with assaults, understaffing, and other problems creating chaos. So why take away the few programs that improve life on the inside by engaging incarcerated people in meaningful endeavors?
May’s account explains more about his current situation in this short essay.
Suffering is an integral aspect of criminal justice for the offender, who should do so with the “difficulty of that reckoning and even the fear and pain it may cause,” they deserve an opportunity to repair the damage for which they are responsible.
If the learning institutions that strengthen our societal fabric are unwilling to help educate prisoners, then that support must come from elsewhere. I am an example of how such support can transform a life that would have otherwise been squandered.