Criminal Justice Reform Resources


  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander — As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them
  • Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson — Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice
  • Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform by John F. Pfaff — A groundbreaking examination of our system of imprisonment, revealing the true causes of mass incarceration as well as the best path to reform
  • Burning Down the House: The End of Juvenile Prison by Nell Bernstein — One in three American children will be arrested by the time they are twenty-three, and many will spend time locked inside horrific detention centers that defy everything we know about how to rehabilitate young offenders. In a clear-eyed indictment of the juvenile justice system run amok, award-winning journalist Nell Bernstein shows that there is no right way to lock up a child
  • Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America by Peter Edelman — A nationally known expert on poverty shows how not having money has been criminalized and shines a light on lawyers, activists, and policy makers working for a more humane approach
  • Chokehold: Policing Black Men by Paul Butler — Cops, politicians, and ordinary people are afraid of black men. The result is the Chokehold: laws and practices that treat every African American man like a thug. In this explosive new book, an African American former federal prosecutor shows that the system is working exactly the way it’s supposed to
  • A Woman Doing Life: Notes from a Prison for Women by Erin George. A woman sentenced to over 600 years in Virginia writes about life in a women’s prison
  • I’ll Fly Away by Wally Lamb and various authors. Collection of personal essays by female inmates at York Correctional Institution
  • Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time by James William Kilgore — We 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? This book offers the first comprehensive overview of the incarceration apparatus put in place by the world’s largest jailer: the United States
  • Solitary: Unbroken by four decades in solitary confinement. My story of transformation and hope. by Albert Woodfox —Solitary is the unforgettable life story of a man who served more than four decades in solitary confinement – in a six-foot by nine-foot cell, 23 hours a day, in notorious Angola prison in Louisiana – all for a crime he did not commit
  • Six by Ten: Stories from Solitary (Voice of Witness) by Taylor Pendergrass and Mateo Hoke — Six by ten feet. That’s the average size of the cells in which tens of thousands of people incarcerated in the United States linger for weeks, months, and even decades in solitary confinement. With little stimulation and no meaningful human contact, these individuals struggle to preserve their identity, sanity, and even their lives
  • Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair by Danielle Sered — The author is a leading proponent of restorative approach to violent crime, and asks us to reconsider the purposes of incarceration, and whether the needs of victims or of offenders is being met in any reasonable way by our rush to incarcerate and punish
  • Democracy in Black: How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul by Eddie S. Glaude, Jr. — Glaude argues that we live in a country founded on a “value gap”– with white lives valued more than others– that still distorts public policy and undermines our democracy

Ted Talks:

Pod Casts:

  • NPR’s Hidden Brain: The Hole — Imagine a concrete room, not much bigger than a parking space. No window. You’re in there 23 hours a day, 7 days a week; you don’t know when you’ll get out of this room. A month? A year? A decade?
  • NPR Special Series: Life in Solitary Confinement — A three-part series examining the state of solitary confinement in US prisons today
  • Ear Hustle — A partnership between Earlonne Woods and Antwan Williams, two African-American men currently incarcerated in San Quentin State Prison, and Nigel Poor, a white, free-world visual artist, each episode of Ear Hustle introduces a theme which people on the outside can relate to (such as pesky roommates, race, or pets), and asks a handful of prisoners to share stories on this theme
  • Decarcerated — “Decarcerated” is produced by Marlon Peterson, a formerly incarcerated young African American, and features intimate one-on-one interviews in each episode
  • ABA Journal: Is it Time to Rethink Solitary Confinement? — In this episode of the Modern Law Library, the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles speaks with Keramet Reiter, a University of California at Irvine professor and the author of the new book 23/7: Pelican Bay Prison and the Rise of Long-term Solitary Confinement