David Johnson at Life in the Carceral State.
David Johnson at “Life and Death in a Carceral State.” (FUNMI OGUNRO)

Watch: ‘Life and Death in a Carceral State’

At the Observer’s inaugural live storytelling event, formerly incarcerated advocates were among those sharing their experiences with Texas’ criminal justice system.


What is the real impact of the U.S. criminal justice system?

Storytellers David Johnson, Mignon Zezqueaux, Maggie Luna, Thomas Bartlett Whitaker (whose essay excerpt was read by the Marshall Project’s Maurice Chammah) and poet Jorge Antonio Renaud explored the issue in the Observer’s first live storytelling event earlier this month. Civil rights reporter Michael Barajas acted as emcee. 

As you might expect, the stories were often heartrending: Zezqueaux revealed how the death of her son Solomon hit her family hard, and Johnson shared his terrifying, maddening first brush with the police as a young boy in Chicago. But there were welcome moments of levity, too, as in Whitaker’s story about using old-fashioned ingenuity to cook tacos on Death Row. 

Watch their stories below:

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