REFORM Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to criminal justice reform, recently recommended a list of resources to educate followers about the justice system as part of #REFORM2020Recap. The organization’s Tweet was one of many posts from social justice leaders over the past year, which each focused on expanding followers’ knowledge from hearsay to historical documentation and first person narratives. And although leaders are not of one mind regarding what to do to reform criminal justice, they do agree that change is necessary and education plays a vital part in that.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) co-founder Patrisse Cullors posted a manifesto titled, “10 Rules to Fight for Black People’s Freedom,” to Instagram a week after George Floyd’s death inspired some of the largest protest marches in Los Angeles history. Cullors, who advocates for focusing municipal resources on community building rather than the militarisation of police departments, included four points about education in her list.
- Be willing to be wrong, to learn and to grow.
- Learn the country’s history and prevent it from repeating itself.
- Know your rights.
- Learn about the abolition and reparations movement.
REFORM Alliance Recommended Resources
REFORM Alliance Founding Partner and Co-Chairman Meek Mill uses his personal story which began with a wrongful arrest in 2007, and which impacted him for his entire adult life, to highlight our broken criminal justice system. Here are some of the stories Mill’s group recommends checking out. They’re a great way to start your education during Black History Month, or any month of the year.
- “A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice and Reform,” is a memoir by lawyer and criminal justice reform advocate Brittany K. Barnett. Barnett co-founded the non profit Buried Alive Project, which works to free people serving life sentences for nonviolent offences who were incarcerated under federal drug policies, many of which have since been rolled back. The story “A Knock at Midnight,” details such cases from the point of view of a young Black businesswoman and law student, who sees injustice and by taking action transforms herself and the lives of others.
- “Justice in America,” a podcast explaining how the criminal justice system works, issue by issue, is hosted by Josie Duffy Rice and Clint Smith and produced by The Appeal, an investigative journalism nonprofit. The hosts break down how policy impacts people, specifically people whose lives are challenged financially and by the color of their skin. Each episode gathers perspectives from activists, educators and experts to delve into “what drives mass incarceration and what can fix it.”
- “The Second Chance Club: Hardship and Hope After Prison,” is a memoir written by former New Orleans parole officer Jason Hardy. Hardy shows what happens to seven parolee’s as they try, sometimes heroically, to climb out of a rigged system lacking social supports and with no resources.
Beyond BLM Reading Lists
It seemed every website and media outlet had a BLM reading list in summer 2020. Ijeoma Oluo, author of “So You Want to Talk About Race,” which was included in many book list roundups, wrote that reading without action wasn’t enough. Oluo recently reposted a list of “9 Solidarity Commitments to/with Incarcerated People for 2021,” by Mariame Kaba, educator, founder and director of Project NIA, a nonprofit working to end youth incarceration. Kaba’s list includes educational resources and actions, many of which people can take from their kitchen chairs. The list begins with learning, but 7 of the commitments include sending letters and books to incarcerated people as well as donating to commissary accounts. Keep in mind that according to the American Civil Liberties Union, “On any given day, nearly 60,000 youth under age 18 are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons in the United States.”
If you want to read or listen to more after checking out the REFORM Alliance list, here are additional resources that provide important narratives and facts about our criminal justice system: