The American justice system has received some well-earned criticism over the decades due to the multiple proven accounts of police brutality, violence, and the mass incarceration of POCs. Police violence isn’t a new issue; plenty of experts have written about this subject for years, but if you want to get a deeper understanding of the U.S. criminal justice system, read these books.
Contacting Someone in Jail or Prison
If you have a loved one who is currently housed in a jail or prison, you can contact them by mail, phone, or through a video conferencing call. Some jails and prisons allow in-person visitation provided you’re vaccinated and adhere to social distancing protocol. Always research the penitentiary before sending gifts or messages because they may be rejected or thrown out.
Example: Reno County Jail in Kansas
An inmate who resides in Reno County Jail in Kansas can receive mail if the address is written correctly (view their website for more details). Visiting hours are separated between genders and last names, but the video chat system allows for more flexibility.
6 Incredible Books Discussing the United States Justice System
1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Just Mercy, which recently received a movie adaptation starring Jamie Foxx, is a story of justice and redemption. Following the life’s work of human rights attorney and Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson, the novel provides an in-depth look at Walter McMillan, one of the exonerated criminals he worked with on death row. Stevenson and his colleagues went on to remove 135 people off of death row, some of which were wrongfully accused of violent crimes.
2. Are Prisons Obsolete? By Angela Davis
Activist and scholar Angela Davis makes a case for complete prison abolition. For many Americans, the thought of a world without prisons seems impossible, but Davis challenges its readers to search for alternatives. She discusses the cultural and systemic issues that have led to mass incarceration and while it continues today, despite the abolition of slavery.
3. Solitary by Albert Woodfox
The thought of being wrongfully committed of any crime is terrifying, but Albert Woodfox lived that very nightmare for over 40 years. Woodfox spent 23 hours a day in a 6×9 cell at Angola prison after he was sentenced to serve 50 years for an armed robbery he didn’t commit. His account of prison life shows just how torturous solitary confinement can be and how unlikely friendships got him through the pain and abuse he was subjected to in the prison system.
4. The New Jim Crow: The Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Michelle Alexander discusses how Jim Crow-era laws weave into the modern criminal justice system and how this impacts the lives of the highest incarcerated population: Black people. Alexander puts it all together to show how POCs are affected as a whole after they’re released from prison, like employment difficulties, stigma, and the denial of public housing benefits.
5. The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America by Naomi Murakawa
It’s often thought that Republican policies are solely to blame for the mass incarceration of the United States, but Naomi Murakawa says otherwise. Although Republican lawmakers haven’t made the prison system any better, Democratic administrations have enacted policies that also created massive civil unrest and racial discrepancy. Anyone on the left should read Murakawa’s writing because they can help liberals see and fix issues within their own movement.
6. American Prison: A Reporter’s Undercover Journey into the Business of Punishment by Shane Bauer
One would hope that the correctional officers are qualified, well-paid, and staffed appropriately. According to undercover journalist Shane Bauer’s four-month stint as a correctional officer, that’s far from the truth. In the 1980s, it was revealed that guards were paid $9 an hour for grueling work conditions, which fostered resentment directed towards the inmates. Bauer used a spy watch and pen to record the warden frequently dehumanizing inmates.