The Observer

The Observer

Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

Back to Article
Back to Article

Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

Julia Moreno, Assistant News Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Non-fiction writer and ex-reporter Rene Denfeld has an interesting job. In her line of work, she meets people who society says shouldn’t be alive.

“Every year we take thousands of people and we erase them,” said Denfeld, to a group of approximately 35 students and faculty on Tuesday in Dean Hall. Denfeld was speaking as part of Central Washington University’s year-long dialogue on mass incarceration.

The United States is the world’s leader in the number of individuals currently in the prison system at 2.2 Million. This is a 500 percent increase over the past 30 years, according to the Sentencing Project website.

Denfeld and Chris Heard, a local photographer involved in the mass incarceration exhibit at Central, agreed convicts are generally not treated well – or like people at all – within American society.

“They are still humans,” Denfeld said. “They will go without human touch or fresh air for years and years and years.”

Denfeld said the most important aspect of her job was actually seeing and listening to the individuals she interviews. She added there is a fundamental human need to be seen and heard by other people.

During the hour-long question and answer discussion, Denfeld and Heard touched on topics such death penalty, mental health, and poverty in the United States.

However, the main event theme was the art and beauty found within the walls of prisons, whether it was people or the actual cells. Additionally, both Heard and Denfeld said their main motivation behind pursuing this topic was the reason why people do these crimes.

“‘Why?’ is the most important question,” Denfeld said.  “We have a culture obsessed with crime and violence.”

She added that her job is to find out why people do terrible things to each other.

Additionally, Denfeld took her experiences as a death row investigator and spun them into a fictional tale called “The Enchanted.” The book delves into the yin and yang of good and bad, as well as beauty existing in horrendous situations.

She has also written for The Oregonian, The New York Times Magazine and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She has published three non-fiction books.

Some other important figures speaking at Central on mass incarceration and racial justice this year are: David Fathi, director of American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project; Ta-Nehisi Coates, a journalist for The Atlantic magazine; and Fred D’Aguiar, an author who explores the social and historical roots of racial injustice in the United States and Caribbean.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Left
  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    CWU honors student veterans

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    An archive of CWU history

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    Student fees pay for SURC

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    Stacking up dust at Old Heat

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    Expansion is starting to look up in Ellensburg

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    Graduates reflect on time at CWU

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    Students ‘eat, sleep, breathe law and justice’ while preparing for Supreme Court panel

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    Student fees, if you please

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    Appreciation shown with concerts, food

  • Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration

    News

    The city that always sleeps

Navigate Right
Death row investigator speaks on mass incarceration