Doing Magic From Prison

By Joshua Jay - Thursday, February 28, 2019


This month marks the release of our publication, Diary of a Prison Magician. It's a first-hand account of a magicians life from inside a maximum security prison. It's a gripping, gritty account of the unusual problems we all hope we'll never have to face: doing magic "on the inside." I've been writing with this man for more than five years, teaching him some magic, helping him develop his material, and, more than anything, being a friend.

Since the release of Diary of a Prison Magician, many of our customers have reached out to praise this man's writing, and to say that they're amazed by the sheer oddity of his story. But someone wrote with a question that gave me pause: would you write to this man if you knew he was guilty?

I had to think about that.

Years ago I wrote MAGIC: The Complete Course, which is widely available and, oddly enough, a popular book in prisons. Prison libraries carry books about hobbies you can do in a confined space. Over the years several prisoners have reached out to me, and I always make myself available to them, regardless of why they're in prison. For example, I created "Balance" around a different prison pen pal to the person who wrote Diary of a Prison Magician.

All of my prison pen pals maintain their innocence, more or less. The man who wrote Diary was convicted of murder, and he's serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

But to answer the question asked of me, yes. Yes, I would write to this man, even if I knew he was guilty. My position is this: I'm here to advance the craft of magic. This man has shown himself to be smart, articulate, a hard worker, wildly enthusiastic about magic, and quite creative. If I can help him improve his magic, I can, in a way, spread magic to people--other prisoners--I'll never perform for. This man's past crimes--whatever they are--have been judged and sentenced already. If there's a chance I can help him turn his life around, and improve his magic, I'm willing to try.

I hope you'll read Diary of a Prison Magician, because there's an unwritten moral written between the lines of this book, and it's this: magic perseveres, even in the darkest corners.


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