One hundred forty-seven men live on Death Row in North Carolina. Most of us have been here for more than a decade. Some more than 30 years. Some of us are writers and poets. We are passionate about the spoken word.
Until now, we’ve only been allowed one supervised 10 minute phone call each year. But now, with regular access to the phones, we want to share our voices with you.
Life Lines is an audio journal of poetry, spoken word, and other creative writing from North Carolina’s Death Row.
Life Lines is about connection. It’s about finding surprising spaces to share endangered, beautiful life. It’s about recognizing our power and our powerlessness to give and take life.
We’ll publish three pieces each week. Poems or short stories, in our own words. Short pieces. Pieces you can listen to – words which we hope invite communion, however limited and imperfect, with those struggling to live inside state prisons.
Because of state laws restricting access to prisons, the authors record these poems by phone. As you listen carefully, let the line static become a reminder of all the lines – race, class, iron bars and barbed wire – we’ve constructed between ourselves. If we allow them, these pieces can open new, shared spaces for us in spite of these boundaries, if only for a moment.
But we need your help to make it happen. We want to build this place for you and us online, and that means creating and maintaining a website. We’ll also have to pay each time we call off the Row to make the recordings.
With your support, we can cover these start-up costs and get connected for the first year. We hope that will give us enough time to generate a moderate flow of monthly support to keep this line open for as long as you and we are willing.
Take a chance with us. Listen.
The funds this campaign raises will allow us, a team of insiders (residents of Central Prison) and outsiders (a couple recent graduates of Duke University Divinity School who took classes in Central Prison), to finish building the app and website and keep the site up and content flowing for the first year. While the phone lines are now open on Death Row, the residents must still pay to call out. We intend to reimburse these costs, and must budget for the money transfer fees, as well. Because the prison residents have no computer or internet access, we also need to pay someone on the outside a little bit to maintain the website.
Risks and challenges
This project has a strong foundation. It is anchored in the contributors’ will to live even while confined and condemned on Death Row and their commitment to speak life through their writing. This will and commitment continues to animate this project and generate connection. The relationships so far supporting Life Lines have grown for more than a year between residents of Central Prison and people living on the outside. When Bryan Stevenson visited the Row last summer, the author of Just Mercy and Director of the Equal Justice Initiative encouraged the men there to keep finding ways to share their voices beyond the prison walls. His words were inspiring, and have been reinforced by his backing of this project.
Together, inside and out, we’ve developed and tested a prototype of an app allowing residents to record and post their work online by phone. We’re also forming an advisory board on both sides of the walls to review submissions. The investment of talent and energy on all sides has been significant.
The main risk of this project involves contributors’ access to phones. If they lose access to phones, not only will they not be able to contribute work, they won’t be able to call their families or speak with people on the outside. We don’t want to jeopardize this access for them, and our backchannel conversations lead us to believe this project won’t do so.
If the authors’ phone access is temporarily interrupted, there may be a disruption in the weekly publishing schedule.
The long term success of this project will depend on continued financial support from listeners. We hope that we will be able to secure a regular funding stream in the first year of operation. We love good audio storytelling like The Memory Palace by Nate DiMeo. If things go really well, maybe there will be a podcast in our future, too. Whatever happens, Life Lines is what is the name implies: an attempt to hold fast to life and hope within systems structured to bend bodies – especially incarcerated bodies and black bodies – toward death and despair. Thanks for holding on with us.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)