Writing my wrongs : life, death, and redemption in an American prison by Shaka SenghorIn 1991, Shaka Senghor was sent to prison for second-degree murder. Today, he is a lecturer at the University of Michigan. In life, it's not how you start that matters. It's how you finish. Shaka Senghor was raised in a middle class neighborhood on Detroit's eastside during the height of the 1980s crack epidemic. An honor roll student and a natural leader, he dreamed of becoming a doctor--but at age 11, his parents' marriage began to unravel and the beatings from his mother worsened, sending him on a downward spiral that saw him run away from home, turn to drug dealing to survive, and end up in prison for murder at the age of 19, fuming with anger and despair. Writing My Wrongs is the story of what came next. During his 19-year incarceration, seven of which were spent in solitary confinement, Senghor discovered literature, meditation, and self-examination, tools that he used to confront the demons of his past, forgive the people who hurt him, and begin atoning for the wrongs he had committed. Upon his release at age 38, Senghor became an activist and mentor to young men and women facing circumstances like his. His work in the community and the courage to share his story led him to fellowships at the MIT Media Lab and the Kellogg Foundation and invitations to speak at events like TED and the Aspen Ideas Festival. Writing My Wrongs is a redemption story told through a stunningly human portrait of what it's like to grow up in the gravitational pull of poverty, violence, fear, and hopelessness. It's an unforgettable tale of forgiveness and hope, one that reminds us that our worst deeds don't define who we are or what we can contribute to the world. And it's a lasting testament to the power of compassion, prayer, and unconditional love.
Publication Date: 2016
Locking up Our Own: Crime and punishment in Black America by James FormanToday, Americans are debating our criminal justice system with new urgency. Mass incarceration and aggressive police tactics-and their impact on people of color-are feeding outrage and a consensus that something must be done.But what if we only know half the story? In Locking Up Our Own, the Yale legal scholar and former public defender James Forman Jr. weighs the tragic role that some African Americans themselves played in escalating the war on crime. As Forman shows, the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office around the country amid a surge in crime. Many came to believe that tough measures-such as stringent drug and gun laws and "pretext traffic stops" in poor African American neighborhoods-were needed to secure a stable future for black communities. Some politicians and activists saw criminals as a "cancer" that had to be cut away from the rest of black America. Others supported harsh measures more reluctantly, believing they had no other choice in the face of a public safety emergency.Drawing on his experience as a public defender and focusing on Washington, D.C., Forman writes with compassion for individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas-from the young men and women he defended to officials struggling to cope with an impossible situation. The result is an original view of our justice system as well as a moving portrait of the human beings caught in its coils.
Call Number: HV9950 .F655 2017
Publication Date: 2017-04-18
Readings about Policing/Police Brutality
Policing black bodies : how black lives are surveilled and how to work for change by Angela Hattery and Earl Smitholicing Black Bodies goes beyond chronicling isolated incidents of injustice to look at the broader systems of inequality in our society--how they're structured, how they harm Black people, and how we can work for positive change. The book discusses the school-to-prison pipeline, mass incarceration and the prison boom, the unique ways Black women and trans people are treated, wrongful convictions and the challenges of exoneration, and more. Each chapter of the book opens with a true story, explains the history and current state of the issue, and looks toward how we can work for change. The book calls attention to the ways class, race, and gender contribute to injustice, as well as the perils of colorblind racism--that by pretending not to see race we actually strengthen, rather than dismantle, racist social structures. Policing Black Bodies is a powerful call to acknowledge injustice and work for change.
Publication Date: 2018
The Soft Cage: surveillance in America: from slavery to the war on terror by Christian ParentiThe Soft Cage is the first book to detail the continuum of surveillance in the making of the United States-from the slave pass to the Social Security number all the way to the many forms of computerized monitoring now shaping the post-9/11 world. The Soft Cage explores not just the history but also the politics of everyday surveillance, and explains to readers why the question of who is watching and listening is of utmost importance today.Parenti details how seemingly benign technologies-E-ZPass, GPS systems in rental cars, and iris scans at airports-present opportunities for a reconfiguration of the balance of power between the individual and the state. Under the aegis of security and convenience, Parenti argues, corporations and the U.S. government, often working together, have, without any oversight, substantially eroded civil liberties-including the right to privacy -that Americans have long taken for granted.
Call Number: HN57 .P35 2003
Publication Date: 2003-09-03
Occupied Territory: policing black Chicago from Red Summer to black power by Simon BaltoIn July 1919, an explosive race riot forever changed Chicago. For years, black southerners had been leaving the South as part of the Great Migration. Their arrival in Chicago drew the ire and scorn of many local whites, including members of the city's political leadership and police department, who generally sympathized with white Chicagoans and viewed black migrants as a problem population. During Chicago's Red Summer riot, patterns of extraordinary brutality, negligence, and discriminatory policing emerged to shocking effect. Those patterns shifted in subsequent decades, but the overall realities of a racially discriminatory police system persisted. In this history of Chicago from 1919 to the rise and fall of Black Power in the 1960s and 1970s, Simon Balto narrates the evolution of racially repressive policing in black neighborhoods as well as how black citizen-activists challenged that repression. Balto demonstrates that punitive practices by and inadequate protection from the police were central to black Chicagoans' lives long before the late-century "wars" on crime and drugs. By exploring the deeper origins of this toxic system, Balto reveals how modern mass incarceration, built upon racialized police practices, emerged as a fully formed machine of profoundly antiblack subjugation.
Call Number: HV8148.C4 B35 2019
Publication Date: 2019-04-22
Readings about Prison/Mass Incarceration/Incarceration
The New Jim Crow: mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness by Michelle AlexanderDespite the triumphant dismantling of the Jim Crow Laws, the system that once forced African Americans into a segregated second-class citizenship still haunts America, the US criminal justice system still unfairly targets black men and an entire segment of the population is deprived of their basic rights. Outside of prisons, a web of laws and regulations discriminates against these wrongly convicted ex-offenders in voting, housing, employment and education. Alexander here offers an urgent call for justice.
Slavery by another name : the re-enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II by Douglas A. BlackmonA sobering account of a little-known crime against African Americans, and the insidious legacy of racism that reverberates today. From the aftermath of the Civil War through the dawn of World War II, under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these "debts," prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, lumber camps, brickyards, railroads, quarries, and farm plantations. Thousands of other African Americans were simply seized and compelled into years of involuntary servitude. Armies of "free" black men labored without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced through beatings and physical torture to do the bidding of white masters for decades after the official abolition of American slavery.--From publisher description.
Publication Date: 2008
Understanding Mass Incarceration by James KilgoreWe all know that orange is the new black and mass incarceration is the new Jim Crow, but how much do we actually know about the structure, goals, and impact of our criminal justice system? Understanding Mass Incarceration offers the first comprehensive overview of the incarceration apparatus put in place by the world’s largest jailer: the United States. Drawing on a growing body of academic and professional work, Understanding Mass Incarceration describes in plain English the many competing theories of criminal justice--from rehabilitation to retribution, from restorative justice to justice reinvestment. In a lively and accessible style, author James Kilgore illuminates the difference between prisons and jails, probation and parole, laying out key concepts and policies such as the War on Drugs, broken windows policing, three-strikes sentencing, the school-to-prison pipeline, recidivism, and prison privatization. Informed by the crucial lenses of race and gender, he addresses issues typically omitted from the discussion: the rapidly increasing incarceration of women, Latinos, and transgender people; the growing imprisonment of immigrants; and the devastating impact of mass incarceration on communities. Both field guide and primer, Understanding Mass Incarceration will be an essential resource for those engaged in criminal justice activism as well as those new to the subject.
Solitary: unbroken by four decades in solitary confinement. My story of transformation and hope by Albert WoodfoxFINALIST FOR THE PULITZER PRIZE IN GENERAL NONFICTION FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD IN NONFICTION Solitary is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement--in a 6-foot by 9-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana--all for a crime he did not commit. That Albert Woodfox survived was, in itself, a feat of extraordinary endurance against the violence and deprivation he faced daily. That he was able to emerge whole from his odyssey within America's prison and judicial systems is a triumph of the human spirit, and makes his book a clarion call to reform the inhumanity of solitary confinement in the U.S. and around the world. Arrested often as a teenager in New Orleans, inspired behind bars in his early twenties to join the Black Panther Party because of its social commitment and code of living, Albert was serving a 50-year sentence in Angola for armed robbery when on April 17, 1972, a white guard was killed. Albert and another member of the Panthers were accused of the crime and immediately put in solitary confinement by the warden. Without a shred of actual evidence against them, their trial was a sham of justice that gave them life sentences in solitary. Decades passed before Albert gained a lawyer of consequence; even so, sixteen more years and multiple appeals were needed before he was finally released in February 2016. Remarkably self-aware that anger or bitterness would have destroyed him in solitary confinement, sustained by the shared solidarity of two fellow Panthers, Albert turned his anger into activism and resistance. The Angola 3, as they became known, resolved never to be broken by the grinding inhumanity and corruption that effectively held them for decades as political prisoners. He survived to give us Solitary, a chronicle of rare power and humanity that proves the better spirits of our nature can thrive against any odds.
Call Number: HV6248.W765 A3 2019
Publication Date: 2019-03-05
Readings about Wrongful Convictions
The Sun Does Shine: how I found life and freedom on death row by Anthony Ray Hinton; Bryan Stevenson (Introduction by); Lara Love HardinWinner of the 2019 Christopher Award Oprah's Book Club Summer 2018 Selection The InstantNew York TimesBestseller A powerful, revealing story of hope, love, justice, and the power of reading by a man who spent thirty years on death row for a crime he didn't commit. "An amazing and heartwarming story, it restores our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity." - Archbishop Desmond Tutu In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free. But with no money and a different system of justice for a poor black man in the South, Hinton was sentenced to death by electrocution. He spent his first three years on Death Row at Holman State Prison in agonizing silence--full of despair and anger toward all those who had sent an innocent man to his death. But as Hinton realized and accepted his fate, he resolved not only to survive, but find a way to live on Death Row. For the next twenty-seven years he was a beacon--transforming not only his own spirit, but those of his fellow inmates, fifty-four of whom were executed mere feet from his cell. With the help of civil rights attorney and bestselling author ofJust Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, Hinton won his release in 2015. With a foreword by Stevenson,The Sun Does Shine is an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times. Destined to be a classic memoir of wrongful imprisonment and freedom won, Hinton's memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man's freedom, but you can't take away his imagination, humor, or joy.
Call Number: KF224.H565 H56 2018
Publication Date: 2018-03-27
The innocent man : murder and injustice in a small town by John Grisham#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • John Grisham’s first work of nonfiction: a true crime story that will terrify anyone who believes in the presumption of innocence. NOW A NETFLIX ORIGINAL DOCUMENTARY SERIES “Both an American tragedy and [Grisham’s] strongest legal thriller yet, all the more gripping because it happens to be true.”—Entertainment Weekly In the town of Ada, Oklahoma, Ron Williamson was going to be the next Mickey Mantle. But on his way to the Big Leagues, Ron stumbled, his dreams broken by drinking, drugs, and women. Then, on a winter night in 1982, not far from Ron’s home, a young cocktail waitress named Debra Sue Carter was savagely murdered. The investigation led nowhere. Until, on the flimsiest evidence, it led to Ron Williamson. The washed-up small-town hero was charged, tried, and sentenced to death—in a trial littered with lying witnesses and tainted evidence that would shatter a man’s already broken life, and let a true killer go free. Impeccably researched, grippingly told, filled with eleventh-hour drama, The Innocent Man reads like a page-turning legal thriller. It is a book no American can afford to miss. Praise for The Innocent Man “Grisham has crafted a legal thriller every bit as suspenseful and fast-paced as his bestselling fiction.”—The Boston Globe “A gritty, harrowing true-crime story.”—Time “A triumph.”—The Seattle Times
Publication Date: 2006
Picking Cotton: our memoir of injustice and redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino; Ronald Cotton; Erin Torneo; Jennife Thompson-CanninoTheNew York Times best selling true story of an unlikely friendship forged between a woman and the man she incorrectly identified as her rapist and sent to prison for 11 years. Jennifer Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. She was able to escape, and eventually positively identified Ronald Cotton as her attacker. Ronald insisted that she was mistaken-- but Jennifer's positive identification was the compelling evidence that put him behind bars. After eleven years, Ronald was allowed to take a DNA test that proved his innocence. He was released, after serving more than a decade in prison for a crime he never committed. Two years later, Jennifer and Ronald met face to face-- and forged an unlikely friendship that changed both of their lives. WithPicking Cotton, Jennifer and Ronald tell in their own words the harrowing details of their tragedy, and challenge our ideas of memory and judgment while demonstrating the profound nature of human grace and the healing power of forgiveness.
Call Number: HV6568.B87 T56 2009
Publication Date: 2009-03-03
Scottsboro by Dan T. CarterScottsboro tells the riveting story of one of this country's most famous and controversial court cases and a tragic and revealing chapter in the history of the American South. In 1931, two white girls claimed they were savagely raped by nine young black men aboard a freight train moving across northeastern Alabama. The young men-ranging in age from twelve to nineteen-were quickly tried, and eight were sentenced to death. The age of the defendants, the stunning rapidity of their trials, and the harsh sentences they received sparked waves of protest and attracted national attention during the 1930s. Originally published in 1970, Scottsboro triggered a new interest in the case, sparking two film documentaries, several Hollywood docudramas, two autobiographies, and numerous popular and scholarly articles on the case. In his new introduction, Dan T. Carter looks back more than thirty-five years after he first wrote about the case, asking what we have learned that is new about it and what relevance the story of Scottsboro still has in the twenty-first century.
Call Number: KF224.S34 C3
Publication Date: 2007-09-01
An American Marriage by Tayari JonesNewlyweds Celestial and Roy are the embodiment of both the American Dream and the New South. He is a young executive and she is an artist on the brink of an exciting career. But as they settle into the routine of their life together, they are ripped apart by circumstances neither could have imagined. Roy is arrested and sentenced to twelve years for a crime Celestial knows he didn't commit. Though fiercely independent, Celestial finds herself bereft and unmoored, taking comfort in Andre, her childhood friend, and best man at their wedding. As Roy's time in prison passes, she is unable to hold on to the love that has been her center. After five years, Roy's conviction is suddenly overturned, and he returns to Atlanta ready to resume their life together.
Publication Date: 2018-02-06
Life after Death Row: Exonerees' Search for Community and Identity by Saundra D. Westervelt; Kimberly J. CookLife after Death Row examines the post-incarceration struggles of individuals who have been wrongly convicted of capital crimes, sentenced to death, and subsequently exonerated. Saundra D. Westervelt and Kimberly J. Cook present eighteen exonerees' stories, focusing on three central areas: the invisibility of the innocent after release, the complicity of the justice system in that invisibility, and personal trauma management. Contrary to popular belief, exonerees are not automatically compensated by the state or provided adequate assistance in the transition to post-prison life. With no time and little support, many struggle to find homes, financial security, and community. They have limited or obsolete employment skills and difficulty managing such daily tasks as grocery shopping or banking. They struggle to regain independence, self-sufficiency, and identity. Drawing upon research on trauma, recovery, coping, and stigma, the authors weave a nuanced fabric of grief, loss, resilience, hope, and meaning to provide the richest account to date of the struggles faced by people striving to reclaim their lives after years of wrongful incarceration.