NCADP Recommends: 2018 Suggested Reading List
We have compiled a list of valuable books that discuss capital punishment, the criminal justice system, and social reform. Some are primarily analytical texts and some are emotional in nature, but all are valuable in educating us about the problems of today and helping us envision the solutions of tomorrow.
In 1985, Anthony Ray Hinton was arrested and charged with two counts of capital murder in Alabama. Stunned, confused, and only twenty-nine years old, Hinton knew that it was a case of mistaken identity and believed that the truth would prove his innocence and ultimately set him free. Hinton’s memoir tells his dramatic thirty-year journey and shows how you can take away a man’s freedom, but you can’t take away his imagination, humor, or joy.
In 12 years, Michelle Lyons has witnessed nearly 300 executions. Michelle supported the death penalty, before misgivings began to set in as the executions mounted. She began to query the arbitrary nature of the death penalty and ask the question: do executions make victims of all of us?
A comprehensive, readable analysis of the key issues of the Black Lives Matter movement, this thought-provoking and compelling anthology features essays by some of the nation’s most influential and respected criminal justice experts and legal scholars. Essays range from an explication of the historical roots of racism in the criminal justice system to an examination of modern-day police killings of unarmed black men.
It isn’t enough to celebrate the death penalty’s demise. We must learn from it. The failed death penalty experiment teaches us how inept lawyering, overzealous prosecution, race discrimination, wrongful convictions, and excessive punishments undermine the pursuit of justice. Garrett makes a strong closing case for what a future criminal justice system might look like if these injustices were remedied.
The eminent political scientist Frank Baumgartner along with a team of younger scholars (Marty Davidson, Kaneesha Johnson, Arvind Krishnamurthy, and Colin Wilson) have collaborated to assess the empirical record and provide a definitive account of how the death penalty has been implemented. Each chapter addresses a precise empirical question and provides evidence, not opinion, about how the modern death penalty has functioned.
Does the death penalty violate the Constitution? In Against the Death Penalty, Justice Stephen Breyer argues that it does; that it is carried out unfairly and inconsistently and, thus, violates the ban on "cruel and unusual punishments" specified by the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. Breyer was joined in his dissent from the bench by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Their passionate argument has been cited by many legal experts including fellow Justice Antonin Scalia—as signaling an eventual Court ruling striking down the death penalty.
Recent years have seen an explosion of protest against police brutality and repression—most dramatically in Ferguson, Missouri, where longheld grievances erupted in violent demonstrations following the police killing of Michael Brown. This book attempts to spark public discussion by revealing the tainted origins of modern policing as a tool of social control. Drawing on groundbreaking research from across the world, and covering virtually every area in the increasingly broad range of police work, Alex Vitale demonstrates how law enforcement has come to exacerbate the very problems it is supposed to solve.
A bold agenda for criminal justice reform based on equal parts pragmatism and idealism, from the visionary director of the Center for Court Innovation, a leader of the reform movement. Start Here is a must-read for everyone who wants to start dismantling mass incarceration without waiting for a revolution or permission. Proceeds from the book will support the Center for Court Innovation’s reform efforts.
No Choirboy takes readers inside America's prisons, and allows inmates sentenced to death as teenagers to speak for themselves. In their own voices—raw and uncensored—they talk about their lives in prison, and share their thoughts and feelings about how they ended up there. Susan Kuklin also gets inside the system, exploring capital punishment itself and the intricacies and inequities of criminal justice in the United States.
A poetic and powerful memoir about what it means to be a Black woman in America—and the co-founding of a movement that demands justice for all in the land of the free. In 2013, when Trayvon Martin’s killer went free, Patrisse Khan-Cullors's outrage led her to co-found Black Lives Matter with Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi. Condemned as terrorists and as a threat to America, these loving women founded a hashtag that birthed the movement to demand accountability from the authorities who continually turn a blind eye to the injustices inflicted upon people of Black and Brown skin.