A Little Piece of Light: A Memoir of Hope, Prison, and a Life Unbound


Donna Hylton - 2018
    In fact, Dawson has signed on to play Hylton in a movie that’s in development now.But in 1986, Hylton experienced prison from the inside when she was sentenced to 25 years-to-life for kidnapping and second-degree murder. Like so many women before her and so many women yet to come, her life had been a nightmare of abuse that left her feeling alone and convinced of her worthlessness. With her sentencing, it seemed that Donna had reached the end–at age 19, due to her own mistakes and bad choices, her life was over.But behind the bars of Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, alongside this generation’s most infamous female criminals, Donna learned to fight — and then, to thrive. For the first time in her life, she realized that she was not alone in the abuse and misogyny that she experienced; as she bonded with her new sisters, she discovered that her pain was not an anomaly, but a commonality among women from all walks of life.It’s a reality that she has since vowed to change. Since her release in 2012, Donna has emerged as a leading advocate for criminal justice reform and women’s rights who speaks with politicians, violent abusers, prison officials, victims, and students to tell her story. But it’s not her story alone, she is quick to say. She also represents the stories of thousands of women who are unable to speak for themselves because they’ve been silenced, imprisoned, or killed.

Tough cases : judges tell the stories of some of the hardest decisions they've ever made


Russell F. Canan - 2018
    It’s the judges who have the heavy lift: they are the ones who have to make the ultimate decisions, many of which have profound consequences on the lives of the people standing in front of them.In Tough Cases, judges from different kinds of courts in different parts of the country write about the case that proved most difficult for them to decide. Some of these cases received international attention: the Elián González case in which Judge Jennifer Bailey had to decide whether to return a seven-year-old boy to his father in Cuba after his mother drowned trying to bring the child to the United States, or the Terri Schiavo case in which Judge George Greer had to decide whether to withdraw life support from a woman in a vegetative state over the wishes of her parents, or the Scooter Libby case about appropriate consequences for revealing the name of a CIA agent. Others are less well-known but equally fascinating: a judge on a Native American court trying to balance U.S. law with tribal law, a young Korean American former defense attorney struggling to adapt to her new responsibilities on the other side of the bench, and the difficult decisions faced by a judge tasked with assessing the mental health of a woman who has killed her own children.Relatively few judges have publicly shared the thought processes behind their decision making. Tough Cases makes for fascinating reading for everyone from armchair attorneys and fans of Law and Order to those actively involved in the legal profession who want insight into the people judging their work.

Good Kids, Bad City: A Story of Race and Wrongful Conviction in America


Kyle Swenson - 2019
    The prosecution's case, which resulted in a combined 106 years in prison for the three men, rested on the more-than-questionable testimony of a pre-teen, Ed Vernon.The actual murderer was never found. Almost four decades later, Vernon recanted his testimony, and Wiley, Kwame, and Rickey were released. But while their exoneration may have ended one of American history's most disgraceful miscarriages of justice, the corruption and decay of the city responsible for their imprisonment remain on trial.Interweaving the dramatic details of the case with Cleveland's history--one that, to this day, is fraught with systemic discrimination and racial tension--Swenson reveals how this outrage occurred and why. Good Kids, Bad City is a work of astonishing empathy and insight: an immersive exploration of race in America, the struggling Midwest, and how lost lives can be recovered.

Cuz: The Life and Times of Michael A.


Danielle S. Allen - 2017
    In this “compassionate retelling of an abjectly tragic story” (New York Times), Danielle Allen—a prize-winning scholar—recounts her heroic efforts to rescue Michael Alexander Allen, her beloved baby cousin, who was arrested at fifteen for an attempted carjacking. Tried as an adult and sentenced to thirteen years, Michael served eleven. Three years later, he was dead. Why did this gifted young man, who dreamed of being a firefighter and a writer, end up murdered? Why did he languish in prison? And why at fifteen was he in an alley in South Central Los Angeles, holding a gun while trying to steal someone’s car? Hailed as a “literary miracle” (Washington Post), this fierce family memoir makes mass incarceration nothing less than a new American tragedy.

A Hundred Little Hitlers: The Death of a Black Man, the Trial of a White Racist, and the Rise of the Neo-Nazi Movement in America


Elinor Langer - 2003
    Later that night, they encountered three Ethiopians; a street fight broke out and Kenneth Mieske brutally beat Mulugeta Seraw with a bat. In the early-morning hours, Seraw died.Drawing on more than ten years of original research, award-winning journalist Elinor Langer takes the Seraw case as the occasion for a thorough investigation of the Nazi-inspired racist movement in the United States. She vividly reconstructs the world of the skinheads, both in Portland and nationally: their origins in the punk scene, their basement shrines to Nazi power, their moments of glory on Oprah and Geraldo. She delves into the long-standing radical groups with which the skinheads became allied, tracking the progress of such powerful figures as white Aryan resistance leader Tom Metzger through the stations of the far right, from the Birch Society to Christian Identity to David Duke's Klan. In gripping detail, she follows ambitious civil-rights lawyer Morris Dees's efforts to prove Metzger responsible for the Portland killing-a sensational campaign to curb the growth of neo-Nazism.Compelling, disturbing, and important, A Hundred Little Hitlers is both an epic account of racism and justice, and a close examination of social forces that loom ever more dangerously today.

Solitary: Unbroken by Four Decades in Solitary Confinement


Albert Woodfox - 2019
    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.

Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People


Ben Crump - 2019
    While some deaths make headlines, most are personal tragedies suffered within families and communities. Worse, these killings are done one person at a time, so as not to raise alarm. While it is much more difficult to justify killing many people at once, in dramatic fashion, the result is the same—genocide.Taking on such high-profile cases as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and a host of others, Crump witnessed the disparities within the American legal system firsthand and learned it is dangerous to be a black man in America—and that the justice system indeed only protects wealthy white men.In this enlightening and enthralling work, he shows that there is a persistent, prevailing, and destructive mindset regarding colored people that is rooted in our history as a slaveowning nation. This biased attitude has given rise to mass incarceration, voter disenfranchisement, unequal educational opportunities, disparate health care practices, job and housing discrimination, police brutality, and an unequal justice system. And all mask the silent and ongoing systematic killing of people of color.Open Season is more than Crump’s incredible mission to preserve justice, it is a call to action for Americans to begin living up to the promise to protect the rights of its citizens equally and without question.

The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions


Helen Prejean - 2004
    Both were convicted of murder on flimsy evidence (O’Dell’s principal accuser was a jailhouse informant who later recanted his testimony). Both were executed in spite of numerous appeals. Sister Helen Prejean watched both of them die.As she recounts these men’s cases and takes us through their terrible last moments, Prejean brilliantly dismantles the legal and religious arguments that have been used to justify the death penalty. Riveting, moving, and ultimately damning, The Death of Innocents is a book we dare not ignore.

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom


Brittany K. Barnett - 2020
    Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever--that of Sharanda Jones, single mother, business owner and, like Brittany, black daughter of the rural South. A victim of America's ruthless and devastating war on drugs, Sharanda had been torn from the arms of her young daughter and was serving a life sentence without parole--all for a first-time drug offense. In Sharanda, Brittany saw haunting echoes of own life, both as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother and the one-time girlfriend of an abusive drug dealer. As she studied Sharanda's case, a system slowly came into focus: one where widespread racial injustice forms the core of our country's addiction to incarceration. Moved by Sharanda's plight, Brittany began to work towards her freedom.This had never been the plan. Bright and ambitious, Brittany was already a successful accountant with her sights set on a high-powered future in corporate law. But Sharanda's case opened the door to a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system, in which people could be locked up for life under misguided appeals for law and order. Driven by the realization that her clients' fates could have easily been her own, Brittany soon found herself on a quest to unlock the human potential of those our society has forgotten how to see. Living a double life, she moved billion dollar corporate deals by day, and by night worked pro bono to free Sharanda and others in near-impossible legal battles. Ultimately, her journey transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself. A Knock at Midnight is Brittany's riveting, inspirational memoir, at once a coming-of-age story and a powerful evocation of what it takes to bring hope and justice to a system built to resist both at every turn.

From Jailer to Jailed: My Journey from Correction and Police Commissioner to Inmate #84888-054


Bernard B. Kerik - 2015
    His résumé as a public servant is long and storied, and includes honors from President Ronald Reagan, Queen Elizabeth II, and the NYPD’s Medal for Valor for saving his partner in a gun battle. In 2004, Kerik was nominated by President George W. Bush to head the US Department of Homeland Security. Now, he is a former Federal Prison Inmate known as #84888-054. Convicted of tax fraud and false statements in 2007, Kerik was sentenced to four years in federal prison. Now for the first time, in this hard-hitting, raw and oftentimes politically incorrect memoir, he talks candidly about his time on the inside: the torture of solitary confinement, the abuse of power, the mental and physical torment of being locked up in a cage, the powerlessness. With his newfound perspective, Kerik makes a plea for change and illuminates why our punishment system doesn’t always fit the crime. In this extraordinary memoir, Kerik offers a riveting, one-of-a-kind perspective on the American penal system as he details life on the inside with the experience of an acclaimed Correction Commissioner from the outside. With astonishing candor, bravery, and insider’s intelligence, Bernard Kerik shares his fall from grace to incarceration, and turns it into an impassioned and singularly insightful rallying cry for criminal justice reform in a nation that he devoted his life to serving and protecting.

Peace and Good Order: The Case for Indigenous Justice in Canada


Harold R. Johnson - 2019
    Johnson."The night of the decision in the Gerald Stanley trial for the murder of Colten Boushie, I received a text message from a retired provincial court judge. He was feeling ashamed for his time in a system that was so badly tilted. I too feel this way about my time as both defence counsel and as a Crown prosecutor; that I didn't have the courage to stand up in the court room and shout 'Enough is enough.' This book is my act of taking responsibility for what I did, for my actions and inactions." --Harold R. JohnsonIn early 2018, the failures of Canada's justice system were sharply and painfully revealed in the verdicts issued in the deaths of Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine. The outrage and confusion that followed those verdicts inspired former Crown prosecutor and bestselling author Harold R. Johnson to make the case against Canada for its failure to fulfill its duty under Treaty to effectively deliver justice to Indigenous people, worsening the situation and ensuring long-term damage to Indigenous communities.In this direct, concise, and essential volume, Harold R. Johnson examines the justice system's failures to deliver "peace and good order" to Indigenous people. He explores the part that he understands himself to have played in that mismanagement, drawing on insights he has gained from the experience; insights into the roots and immediate effects of how the justice system has failed Indigenous people, in all the communities in which they live; and insights into the struggle for peace and good order for Indigenous people now.

Anatomy of Injustice: A Murder Case Gone Wrong


Raymond Bonner - 2012
    Police immediately arrested Edward Lee Elmore, a semiliterate, mentally retarded black man with no previous felony record. His only connection to the victim was having cleaned her gutters and windows, but barely ninety days after the victim’s body was found, he was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death. Elmore had been on death row for eleven years when a young attorney named Diana Holt first learned of his case. After attending the University of Texas School of Law, Holt was eager to help the disenfranchised and voiceless; she herself had been a childhood victim of abuse. It required little scrutiny for Holt to discern that Elmore’s case—plagued by incompetent court-appointed defense attorneys, a virulent prosecution, and both misplaced and contaminated evidence—reeked of injustice. It was the cause of a lifetime for the spirited, hardworking lawyer. Holt would spend more than a decade fighting on Elmore’s behalf. With the exemplary moral commitment and tenacious investigation that have distinguished his reporting career, Bonner follows Holt’s battle to save Elmore’s life and shows us how his case is a textbook example of what can go wrong in the American justice system. He reviews police work, evidence gathering, jury selection, work of court-appointed lawyers, latitude of judges, iniquities in the law, prison informants, and the appeals process. Throughout, the actions and motivations of both unlikely heroes and shameful villains in our justice system are vividly revealed.             Moving, suspenseful, and enlightening, Anatomy of Injustice is a vital contribution to our nation’s ongoing, increasingly important debate about inequality and the death penalty.From the Hardcover edition.

Conspiracy in the Streets: The Extraordinary Trial of the Chicago Seven


Jon Wiener - 2006
    Eventually the judge ordered Seale to be bound and gagged for insisting on representing himself. Adding to the theater in the courtroom an array of celebrity witnesses appeared, among them Timothy Leary, Norman Mailer, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins, and Allen Ginsberg (who provoked the prosecution by chanting "Om" on the witness stand).This book combines an abridged transcript of the trial with astute commentary by historian and journalist Jon Wiener, and brings to vivid life an extraordinary event which, like Woodstock, came to epitomize the late 1960s and the cause for free speech and the right to protest--causes that are very much alive a half century later. As Wiener writes, "At the end of the sixties, it seemed that all the conflicts in America were distilled and then acted out in the courtroom of the Chicago Conspiracy trial."An afterword by the late Tom Hayden examines the trial's ongoing relevance, and drawings by Jules Feiffer help recreate the electrifying atmosphere of the courtroom.

In Black and White


Alexandra Wilson - 2020
    Slower this time, taking in the details of everyone's faces. I began to play the game I'd played my whole life: spot the black person. Of course, I wish it didn't matter what I looked like or where I came from, but it was obvious that no one there looked like me.'Alexandra is 25, mixed-race and from Essex. As a trainee criminal barrister, she finds herself navigating a world and a set of rules designed by a privileged few. This is her story.We follow Alexandra through a criminal justice system still divided by race and class. We hear about the life-changing events that motivated her to practice criminal law, beginning with the murder of a close family friend and her own experiences of knife crime. She shows us how it feels to defend someone who hates the colour of your skin or someone you suspect is guilty, and the heart-breaking cases of youth justice she has worked on. We see what it's like for the teenagers coerced into county line drug deals and the damage that can be caused when we criminalise teenagers.Her story is unique in a profession still dominated by a privileged section of society with little first-hand experience of the devastating impact of violent crime.

The Unarmed Truth: My Fight to Blow the Whistle and Expose Fast and Furious


John Dodson - 2013
    In 2007, following the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech, John Dodson walked through the classrooms, heartbroken, to cover up the bodies of the victims. Then came Arizona. The American border. Ten days before Christmas, 2010, ATF agent John Dodson awoke to the news he had dreaded every day as a member of the elite team called the Group VII Strike Force: a U.S. border patrol agent named Brian Terry had been shot dead by bandits armed with guns that had been supplied to them by ATF. Was this an inevitable consequence of the Obama administration’s Project Gunrunner, set in place one year earlier ostensibly to track Mexican drug cartels? Brian Terry’s murder would not only change John Dodson’s life forever; it would reveal a scandal so unthinkably unpatriotic that it forced President Barack Obama to claim executive privilege and caused Attorney General Eric Holder to be held in contempt of Congress. Federal Agent John Dodson, an ex-military man, took an oath to defend the world’s greatest country, and proudly considered himself a walking patriotic example of the American Dream. Brian Terry, ex-military like Dodson, was only forty years old, a family man who served his country by working for the government. Dodson was terrified when the next phone call came, one with the potential to destroy his career, his family, and his life. CBS investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson asked Dodson to go public with what he knew about Fast and Furious. To Agent Dodson, this meant blowing the whistle. But to the family of Agent Terry, it was a chance to save lives and right a wrong. As he took a fight from the border towns of Arizona to a showdown in the halls of Congress, John Dodson clung to the hope that truth would prevail, that he would be redeemed, and that Brian Terry’s death would not be in vain. Like whistle-blowers before him, John would not be welcome back on the job. But he found strength in his conscience, in the support of the American public, and in Senators Darryl Issa and Chuck Grassley. When his first-amendment rights to publicly tell his story were threatened, the ACLU took up his case. For her report revealing John Dodson as the key whistle-blower in Fast and Furious, Sharyl Attkisson received an Emmy Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism. Ultimately, John Dodson was cleared by the Inspector General’s office, publicly heralded as a hero, and returned to Arizona. Perhaps a lesson gleaned from John Dodson’s powerful account is well stated by former Speaker of the House of Representatives Sam Rayburn: “If you always tell the truth, you don’t have to remember what you said.”