As a wayward 17-year-old youth, T.J. Parsell robbed a photo shop with a toy gun, and he was sentenced to four and a half to fifteen years in prison.
The first night of his term, four older inmates drugged Parsell and took turns raping him. After he woke up he found that he had been "won" in a coin-flip and was now the "property" of a hardened convict named Chet. Forced to remain silent about his rape by a convict code among inmates (one in which informers are murdered), Parsell's experience that first night haunted him throughout the rest of his sentence.
In an effort to silence the guilt and pain of its victims, the issue of prisoner rape is a story that has not been told. For the first time Parsell, one of U.S.A.'s leading spokespeople for prison reform, shares the story of his coming of age behind bars. He gives voice to countless others who have been exposed to an incarceration system that turns a blind eye to the abuse of the prisoners in its charge. Since life behind bars is so often exploited by television and movie re-enactments, the real story has yet to be told.
Thus T.J. Parsell wrote the book, Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison (2006), which has received praise in several reviews. Additionally, he is also a contributor to Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex (2008). He is the former President of Stop Prisoner Rape, a consultant to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission, and is currently working on a documentary about prison sexual violence.
Mr. Parsell has testified before numerous government bodies and was instrumental in passage of the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003, the first ever federal legislation to address this issue. He has consulted with numerous corrections agengies, the National Institute of Corrections, and The U.S. Bureau of Justice Programs.