Archives For Criminal Justice


[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”1626982848″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”216″]Bearing Witness Within The
Ineffective Prison System
A Review of 

Refuge in Hell:
Finding God in Sing Sing

Ronald Lemmert

Paperback: Orbis Books, 2018.
Buy Now:  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1626982848″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]  [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B07FJZP18G” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]
Reviewed by Mary VanderGoot
Ronald Lemmert was a Catholic chaplain at the Sing Sing Correctional Facility in New York for sixteen years. Refuge in Hell is his memoir. It is the story of why he chose to be a prison chaplain, why he stayed as long as he did, and why he left abruptly.

Prisons are grim places. The environment is rigid and unforgiving, but it is also unpredictable and dangerous. By reputation Sing Sing is among the worst. The first time Father Lemmert celebrated mass only twelve men from a population of 2000 attended. The chapel was “dirty and dingy….paint of the chapel walls was peeling….a large asbestos ceiling tile had become unglued and was hanging down.” (30) Lemmert determined to revitalize the chapel space and make it a place of refuge and calm.

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October 7 is the birthday of Michelle Alexander, the noted author and lawyer…

In honor of the occasion, we offer this series of brief video clips that introduce her work on race and the criminal justice system.

Alexander is author of the important book
[easyazon_link identifier=”1595586431″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness[/easyazon_link]  

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”333″ identifier=”0375423222″ locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”224″]Seven Societal Lessons
We Need to Learn

A Review of 

Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and Its Legacy
Heather Ann Thompson

Hardback: Pantheon, 2016
Buy Now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”0375423222″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ] [ [easyazon_link identifier=”B018PD2JJ8″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]
Reviewed by John Hawthorne

This review originally appeared on
the reviewer’s blog
and is reprinted here with permission.


I tell my students that there were five radicalizing events that led to me being a sociologist, although I didn’t know it at the time. It started with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968. I was old enough to have been following the civil rights movement and understood how the killing was a reaction to a quest for justice. That was followed just two months later by the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Because I was Kennedy campaign chairman in my eighth grade history class, I’d gotten my Very-Republican grandmother to drive me to Kennedy headquarters to pick up campaign paraphernalia. And now he was dead. In May of 1970, four students were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a Vietnam War Protest. That introduced me to the idea that government officials might act badly. Between 1972 and 1974, I watched in fascination as the President of the United States had his illegality exposed and resigned the presidency in disgrace.

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[easyazon_image align=”left” height=”250″ identifier=”B06XBDT5ZL” locale=”US” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”166″]This is an extraordinary new book!

Becoming Ms. Burton: From Prison to Recovery to Leading the Fight for Incarcerated Women
Susan Burton

Hardcover: The New Press, 2017
Buy Now: [ [easyazon_link identifier=”1620972123″ locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ]   [  [easyazon_link identifier=”B06XBDT5ZL” locale=”US” tag=”douloschristo-20″]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]


[ Read an excerpt of this book ]

Listen to a poignant interview that the author did with NPR’s Terry Gross…
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[easyazon_image add_to_cart=”default” align=”left” asin=”0770437761″ cloaking=”default” height=”333″ localization=”default” locale=”US” nofollow=”default” new_window=”default” src=”” tag=”douloschristo-20″ width=”220″]One of this week’s best new book releases


Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Justice
Adam Benforado

Hardback: Crown Books, 2015
Buy now:
[ [easyazon_link asin=”0770437761″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Amazon[/easyazon_link] ] [ [easyazon_link asin=”B00NRQW7LY” locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Kindle[/easyazon_link] ]

Read an excerpt from this new book
(via Google Books)…


Listen to an NPR interview with the author:

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Demands of the Dead - Katy Ryan, EditorAre We Demeaned by the Death Penalty?

A Feature Review of

Demands of the Dead: Executions, Storytelling, and Activism in the United States

Katy Ryan, ed.

Paperback: U of Iowa Press, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Caitlin Michelle Desjardins.

All Western Democracies, and most countries in the world, have abandoned the Death Penalty for even the most egregious of crimes. The United States, however, persists with the practice. The only countries today where children can be sentenced to death are Saudi Arabia, the Congo, Iran, Pakistan, Yemen, Nigeria and the United States. And in the United States, the death penalty is deeply rooted in our history of slavery, racial oppression and violence. The rate for imprisonment of black men in America is determined to be five times the rate for imprisonment of black men in South Africa, during apartheid.

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David Dow’s new book, The Autobiography of an Execution, “is in part an exploration of the politics behind the death penalty and an argument for its abolition. It’s also a memoir; Dow delves into how this line of work has affected his family life.”

The Autobiography of an Execution.
David R. Dow.

Hardcover: Twelve, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


The NY Review of Books Reviews
Three Recent Books on Prisons


With approximately 2.3 million people in prison or jail, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world—by far. Our per capita rate is six times greater than Canada’s, eight times greater than France’s, and twelve times greater than Japan’s. Here, at least, we are an undisputed world leader; we have a 40 percent lead on our closest competitors—Russia and Belarus.

Even so, the imprisoned make up only two thirds of one percent of the nation’s general population. And most of those imprisoned are poor and uneducated, disproportionately drawn from the margins of society. For the vast majority of us, in other words, the idea that we might find ourselves in jail or prison is simply not a genuine concern.

For one group in particular, however, these figures have concrete and deep-rooted implications—African-Americans, especially young black men, and especially poor young black men. African-Americans are 13 percent of the general population, but over 50 percent of the prison population. Blacks are incarcerated at a rate eight times higher than that of whites—a disparity that dwarfs other racial disparities. (Black–white disparities in unemployment, for example, are 2–1; in nonmarital childbirth, 3–1; in infant mortality, 2–1; and in net worth, 1–5[1]).

In the 1950s, when segregation was still legal, African-Americans comprised 30 percent of the prison population. Sixty years later, African-Americans and Latinos make up 70 percent of the incarcerated population, and that population has skyrocketed. The disparities are greatest where race and class intersect—nearly 60 percent of all young black men born between 1965 and 1969 who dropped out of high school went to prison at least once on a felony conviction before they turned thirty-five. And the incarceration rate for this group—black male high school dropouts—is nearly fifty times the national average.[2]

Read the full review:

Race, Incarceration, and American Values.
Glenn C. Loury, with Pamela S. Karlan,
Tommie Shelby, and Loïc Wacquant

Hardback: Boston Review/MIT Press, 2008.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice.
Paul Butler

Hardback: New Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Releasing Prisoners, Redeeming Communities:
Reentry, Race, and Politics
Anthony C. Thompson

Paperback: New York University Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Dave Eggers Reviews
a new collection of Kurt Vonnegut’s
Unpublished Short Fiction
For the NY Times

It’s been two years since Kurt Vonnegut departed this world, and it’s hard not to feel a bit rudderless without him. Late in his life, Vonnegut issued a series of wonderfully exasperated columns for the magazine In These Times. During the darkest years of the Bush administration, these essays, later collected in “A Man Without a Country,” were guide and serum to anyone with a feeling that pretty much everyone had lost their minds. In a 2003 interview, when asked the softball question “How are you?” he answered: “I’m mad about being old, and I’m mad about being American. Apart from that, O.K.”

Vonnegut left the planet just about the time we, as a nation, were crawling toward the light again, so it’s tempting to wonder what he would have made of where we are now. Would he have been pleased by the election of Barack Obama? Most likely he’d have been momentarily heartened, then exasperated once again witnessing the lunatic-­strewn town halls, the Afghanistan quagmire, the triumph of volume over reason, of machinery over humanity.

For the last many decades of his life, Vonnegut was our sage and chain-­smoking truth-teller, but before that, before his trademark black humor and the cosmic scope of “Cat’s Cradle” and “Slaughterhouse-­Five,” he was a journeyman writer of tidy short fictions.

Read the full review:

Unpublished Short Fiction
Kurt Vonnegut.

Hardback: Delacorte Press, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Powells’ Books Reviews
THE COLLECTOR by Jack Nisbet

The man who gave his name to the magnificent Douglas fir was in the second wave of white adventurers in the great Pacific Northwest, and you get the feeling, reading Jack Nisbet’s fascinating new biography, The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest, that he regretted his tardiness. Oh, to be first and most!

Born the son of a stonemason in 1799 in the village of Old Scone, Scotland, Douglas seemed a true child of the century that was about to disappear. Enlightened, ambitious, opportunistic, with a restless spirit and a scientific mind, he might have been a character from a Henry Fielding novel — a little headstrong, even obstinate, yet amiable and determined to make his way in the world.

By the time Douglas reached the mouth of the Columbia River on April 15, 1825, after an ocean voyage of eight months and 14 days, seafarers such as James Cook, Robert Gray and George Vancouver had long beat him to the Northwest punch. So had the French Canadian trappers and voyageurs. So had another Scotsman, Sir Alexander Mackenzie, and the Americans Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who had made their arduous cross-country treks to the Pacific before Douglas was born or when he was in knee pants.

Read the full review:

The Collector:
David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest
Jack Nisbet.

Hardback: Sasquatch Books, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]


Tobias Winright Reviews
Two Recent Books on Criminal Justice

As an undergraduate student 25 years ago, I found myself behind bars—not as an inmate but as a correctional officer. One of the youngest members of a large metropolitan sheriff’s department on the west coast of Florida, I worked full-time at the maximum-security jail in order to pay for college. Those four years working in the slammer schooled me, and they raised a number of questions for me as a Christian, especially about the death penalty and the use of force. I am continuing to unlearn certain attitudes and assumptions I held then, including some about punishment itself.

By vividly putting into words much of what I have personally pondered about prisons and punishment, these two books should help American readers—Christian or not, possessing firsthand experience with incarceration or not—to step back and take an honest look at what is happening in our current practice of large-scale imprisonment. Each book also asks why we insist on continuing down this punitive path.

Read the full review:

Good Punishment?
Christian Moral Practice and U.S. Imprisonment

James Samuel Logan

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2008.
Buy now: [ CBD ]

Changing Paradigms:
Punishment and Restorative Discipline

Paul Redekop

Paperback: Herald Press, 2007.
Buy now: [ CBD ]

BookForum Reviews

Millions heard the sound of freedom in the Beatles’ music. Elijah Wald hears a death knell. In the songs of the Fab Four, he argues, pop music completed its decades-long transformation from a kingdom of democratic dance and authorless song to a lonesome land of private pleasures and isolated audiences. The result was segregation along lines of race as well as taste: In the late ’60s, as white rock sought introspection in albums and black pop chased good times on singles, an “increasing divide between rock and soul, listening music and dance music,” developed. Wald writes that the Beatles destroyed rock ’n’ roll by leading “their audience off the dance floor, separating rock from its rhythmic and cultural roots,” and “point[ing] the way toward a future in which there need be no unifying styles.”

Read the full review:

How the Beatles Destroyed Rock n Roll:
An Alternative History of American Popular Music

by Elijah Wald

Hardback: Oxford UP, 2009.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Julie Clawson Reviews Will Samson’s ENOUGH
For Next-Wave Magazine.

I recently read Will Samson’s latest book Enough: Contentment in an Age of Excess. When I first started the book, I half-expected it to be a diatribe against modern culture, focusing on the sins of our excess. While the book does mention those excesses, what I found instead was a call to live into true church community. Will encourages us to say “enough” to the consumeristic tendencies that have overtaken our personal lives, our churches, or friendships, and our theology and return to a Christ-centered practice instead.

Read the full review:

Enough: Contentment in An Age of Excess.
Will Samson.

Paperback: David C. Cook, 2009.
Buy now: [ CBD ]