T. J. Parsell

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T. J. Parsell
Born (1960-07-12) July 12, 1960 (age 56)[1]
Dearborn, Michigan, United States
Alma mater New York University (MFA)
St. Francis College (BA)
Occupation Human rights activist, writer, filmmaker

Timothy J. "T. J." Parsell (born July 12, 1960)[1] is an American writer, filmmaker, and human rights activist committed to ending prison rape. He is best known for his book Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison, which details the sexual violence he experienced while serving a four-year prison sentence as a teenager.

Early life and education[edit]

A native of Dearborn, Michigan, Parsell was incarcerated at age 17 for holding up a Fotomat photo developing booth with a toy gun.[1][2] During the four years he remained in prison, older inmates sexually assaulted him numerous times.[1][3][4][5]

He completed high school while in prison and later received a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY.[citation needed] He is currently working toward a Master of Fine Arts degree in film and television at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he was named a Reynolds Fellow in 2010.[6]


Parsell worked in sales in the software industry from 1982 to 2002, employed by companies such as the New York City Transit Authority and DuPont. He left that field to write and pursue a career advocating against prison rape. In 2006, Parsell authored the book Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man’s Prison (Da Capo Press), which has received praise in several reviews.[3][7][8][9][10] Additionally, he contributed to Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex (Bloomsbury 2008). He has served as president of Stop Prisoner Rape and is a consultant to the National Prison Rape Elimination Commission.[4][11] He has published numerous articles, including "Unsafe Behind Bars," a 2005 opinion piece in The New York Times.[1]



Parsell has written or contributed to the following publications:


Parsell is currently working on a documentary about sexual violence in prisons. HIs other cinematographic works include: 'Sexual Safety Behind Bars, Inmate Orientation Videos for NYS DOCCS for male and female videos "Raise the Age Campaign" Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility in New York State, (NY Center for Juvenile Justice) 2012

  • Avoiding Sexual Assault in Prison, National Institute of Corrections, 2006
  • CRISIS, Sickle Cell Anemia, 2008 (edited by Parsell, directed by Nigel Noble)
  • Dog Sweat, 2008 (co-editors Peter & Vandy)
  • The Making of Taxi to the Darkside, 2008 (directed by Alex Gibney)
  • Prison Rape, Sex in Prison, Teen Prison Nightmare
  • Teenage & Homeless in America (edited by Parsell, directed by Nigel Noble)


  1. ^ a b c d e Parsell, T. J. (September 18, 2005). "Unsafe behind bars". The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. Retrieved July 17, 2011. 
  2. ^ Zeigler Jr., Cyd (May 14, 2004). "Life behind bars: Peter Bacanovic's sentence put the spotlight on gay prisoners". The New York Blade. HX Media, LLC. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b McCourt, James (December 26, 2006). "Book Review: Commitment to goodness transcends past in 'Fish'". Los Angeles Times. Eddy Hartenstein. Retrieved July 5, 2008. 
  4. ^ a b Curtis, Kim (January 17, 2006). "A disputed study claims rape is rare in prison". USA Today. Gannett Company, Inc. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ Dolovich, Sharon (October 8, 2009). "Cruelty, prison conditions, and the eighth amendment" (PDF). New York University Law Review. 84 (4): 881 – 979. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  6. ^ "T. J. Parsell: 2010 Reynolds Fellow" (PDF). nyu.edu/reynolds/grad. New York University. 2010. Retrieved June 20, 2011. 
  7. ^ Lisotta, Christopher (November 7, 2006). "Boy behind bars: the gay president of the Stop Prisoner Rape human rights lobby bares his soul in a remarkable new memoir recounting his four years in prison—beginning at age 17.". The Advocate. The Gale Group, Inc. Retrieved July 5, 2008. 
  8. ^ Styrsky, Stefen (December 8, 2006). "Coming out in jail. Review of Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison". gaycitynews.com. Gay City News. Retrieved July 5, 2008. [dead link]
  9. ^ Lee, Christopher (January 25, 2007). "Insidereview: Fish: A Memoir of a Boy in a Man's Prison". The Daily Targum. Rutgers University. Retrieved July 5, 2008. 
  10. ^ Kleiner, Stephen (January 7, 2007). "Behind these walls: Memoir details life-altering events in prison". New York Post. Paul Carlucci. Retrieved July 5, 2008. 
  11. ^ Marshall, Carolyn (August 20, 2005). "Panel on prison rape hears victims' chilling accounts". The New York Times. Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr. Retrieved July 5, 2008. 

External links[edit]