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.