Activities

Book Discussion: Race and the Criminal Justice System

Join GAPP and ACRU on Thursday, July 19, 7:00 – 9:00 PM for a book discussion: Race and the Criminal Justice System.

This is the 2nd in a series of evenings focusing on the effects of the criminal justice system on people of color.

Location: Heritage Universalist Unitarian Church, 2710 Newtown Rd., 45244

Choose ONE of these two books to read. Discussion will draw from both.

Book #1
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
by Michelle Alexander

Book #2
Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
by Bryan Stevenson

Read on for more information about the books and authors, and TED Talks by both.

New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
By Michelle Alexander 

About the Author

Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar. In recent years, she has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics. In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of The New Jim Crow, and that same year she accepted a joint appointment at the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and the Moritz College of Law at The Ohio State University. Since its first publication, The New Jim Crow has received rave reviews and has been featured in national radio and television media outlets, including MSNBC, NPR, Bill Moyers Journal, Tavis Smiley, C-SPAN, and Washington Journal, among others. In March, the book won the 2011 NAACP Image Award for best nonfiction.

Prior to entering academia, Alexander served as the director of the Racial Justice Project for the ACLU of Northern California, where she coordinated the Project’s media advocacy, grassroots organizing, coalition building, and litigation. She is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Vanderbilt University. Following law school, she clerked for Justice Harry A. Blackmun on the U.S. Supreme Court and for Chief Judge Abner Mikva on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

Videos of Michelle Alexander

About the Book

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (January 16, 2012)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.

Devastating. . . . Alexander does a fine job of truth-telling, pointing a finger where it rightly should be pointed: at all of us, liberal and conservative, white and black.
Forbes

Alexander is absolutely right to fight for what she describes as a “much-needed conversation” about the wide-ranging social costs and divisive racial impact of our criminal-justice policies.
Newsweek

Invaluable . . . a timely and stunning guide to the labyrinth of propaganda, discrimination, and racist policies masquerading under other names that comprises what we call justice in America.
Daily Kos

Many critics have cast doubt on the proclamations of racism’s erasure in the Obama era, but few have presented a case as powerful as Alexander’s.
In These Times

Carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable.
Publishers Weekly

[Written] with rare clarity, depth, and candor.
Counterpunch

A call to action for everyone concerned with racial justice and an important tool for anyone concerned with understanding and dismantling this oppressive system.
Sojourners

Undoubtedly the most important book published in this century about the U.S.
Birmingham News

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
By Bryan Stevenson 

About the author

Bryan A. Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, Stevenson has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He has helped achieve court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death, or to life imprisonment without parole. Stevenson has assisted in cases that have saved dozens of prisoners from the death penalty, advocated for poor people, and developed community-based reform litigation aimed at improving the administration of criminal justice.

He is working to establish The Memorial to Peace and Justice in Montgomery, which will document each of the nearly 4,000 lynchings of black people that took place in the twelve states of the South from 1877 to 1950. He believes that the history of lynchings has influenced the subsequent high rate of death sentences in the South, where it has been disproportionately applied to minorities. A related museum, From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, will offer interpretations to show the connection between the post-Civil War period of lynchings to the high rate of executions and incarceration of people of color in the United States.

Stevenson attended Harvard Law School. During law school, as part of a class on race and poverty litigation with Elizabeth Bartholet, he worked for Stephen Bright’s the Southern Center for Human Rights, which represents death-row inmates throughout the South. During this work, Stevenson found his career calling. While at Harvard, he also earned a Master’s in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Ted Talk by Bryan Stevenson

https://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice

About the book

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (August 18, 2015)

Editorial Reviews of Just Mercy

From School Library Journal
What is the one commonality of people on death row? If the victim is white, the perpetrator is 11 times more likely to be condemned to die than if the victim is black. When Stevenson was a 23-year-old Harvard law student, he started an internship in Georgia where his first assignment was to deliver a message to a man living on death row. This assignment became his calling: representing the innocent, the inadequately defended, the children, the domestic abuse survivors, the mentally ill—the imprisoned. This fast-paced book reads like a John Grisham novel. One of those profiled, Walter, was at a barbecue with over 100 people at the time of the murder he was accused of, and spent more than six years on death row. The stories include those of children, teens, and adults who have been in the system since they were teens. This is a title for the many young adults who have a parent or loved one in the prison system and the many others who are interested in social justice, the law, and the death penalty. A standout choice.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Juvenile Hall, CA

“A searing, moving and infuriating memoir . . . Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America’s Mandela. For decades he has fought judges, prosecutors and police on behalf of those who are impoverished, black or both. . . . Injustice is easy not to notice when it affects people different from ourselves; that helps explain the obliviousness of our own generation to inequity today. We need to wake up. And that is why we need a Mandela in this country.”—Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

“Unfairness in the justice system is a major theme of our age. . . . This book brings new life to the story by placing it in two affecting contexts: [Bryan] Stevenson’s life work and the deep strain of racial injustice in American life. . . . You don’t have to read too long to start cheering for this man. Against tremendous odds, Stevenson has worked to free scores of people from wrongful or excessive punishment, arguing five times before the Supreme Court. . . . The book extols not his nobility but that of the cause, and reads like a call to action for all that remains to be done. . . . The message of the book, hammered home by dramatic examples of one man’s refusal to sit quietly and countenance horror, is that evil can be overcome, a difference can be made. Just Mercy will make you upset and it will make you hopeful. . . . Stevenson has been angry about [the criminal justice system] for years, and we are all the better for it.”—Ted Conover, The New York Times Book Review

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