John J. Lennon is a confessed killer doing time at Sing Sing Prison. He’s also published in the Washington Post, the Atlantic, and recently, in Sports Illustrated. He tells Warren Olney about illicit gambling behind bars and “escape” into fantasy football, culminating in this week’s Super Bowl.
Lennon was 24 when he murdered a friend in a drug deal. Starting his sentence of 25 years to life, he attended a writers’ workshop at notorious Attica Prison. Now at Sing Sing, he has 10 years left, and he’s building his career as a freelance writer.
His atonement will never end. “I own what I did and who I used to be,” he says.
But he’s looking forward. “Why not me?” he says. “Why not start this career now? Why do I have to wait ‘til I get out?”
His public career is well known in the cell blocks. “This whole journalism thing in prison and the fame I’ve got … it attracts. It’s the good and the bad. People can be envious and people can be inspired. And, you know, I love the latter,” he says.
He concedes that those who are “envious” can also be dangerous, and that he feels “anxiety” when he’s on the phone, whether he’s on To the Point or hosting his own podcast, “This Is A Collect Call From Sing Sing.”
“We’re living in the upside down kingdom here. ... Violence gets you respect, your propensity for violence,” Lennon says.
As to the Sports Illustrated article, he says, “It was a little uncomfortable when that came out. … A lot of uncomfortable.”
But when it comes to the Super Bowl, he says, “We’ve all done bad things. But at the end of the day, certainly on some days, we’re just regular guys ... watching football.”