Tessie Castillo

Tessie is an international journalist and author from Raleigh, North Carolina, whose writing explores criminal justice, drug policy and harm reduction. Her first book, Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row, offers a searing portrait of men on North Carolina’s Death Row and the broken systems that put them there. Sign up for her newsletter to receive her latest articles.

“Swallowed Up in the Darkness”—The Humanity of People on Death Row

[This article is excerpted from Crimson Letters: Voices from Death Row by Tessie Castillo, Michael J. Braxton, Lyle May, Terry…

January 30, 2020

The Startling Optimism of Harm Reductionists in the Philippines

At dusk in Cebu City, the Philippines, Jonas takes the setting sun as a signal to wrap up his outreach…

December 31, 2019

The Rise and Fall of Drug-User Activism in Thailand

The atmosphere at the Rattanakosin Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, was electric. It was the kind of energy that forms when…

December 9, 2019

Incarcerated Women in Thailand Face Issues Seen Worldwide

Natauboo Jama started selling methamphetamine in northern Thailand after her second child was born. Known locally as yaba, it is…

November 26, 2019

The Ecuadorian Fishermen Snatched Away by US Drug Warriors

After a flood wiped out Bexy Guerrero Salmiento’s home in 2013, her husband disappeared. Just days earlier, Manuel, Bexy and…

October 28, 2019

Ecuador’s Drug Decriminalization Bid Has Lessons for the World

When Rodrigo Velez received a call in 2008 asking him to become Ecuador’s new "Drug Czar," he thought it was…

September 30, 2019

Banning Menthol Cigarettes Criminalizes Black Communities, Say Advocates

Smoking might be out of vogue, but flavored cigarette bans—like those of flavored vapes—are trending. Several cities in the United…

September 24, 2019

When Cops Turn Against the Drug War

Commissaris Muyshondt, sorry to bother you,” said a voice over the phone. “We arrested your brother this morning. Just thought…

September 17, 2019

When Harm Reduction Expansion Stifles Activism: A Lesson From Europe

For six weeks this summer I had the extraordinary opportunity to visit harm reduction programs all over Western Europe. In…

July 23, 2019

How Can Harm Reduction Do Better for Transgender People?

In 2015 Tori Cooper decided to leave a successful nonprofit career to blaze a trail advocating for the rights of…

July 10, 2019