The Issue



The U.S. has just 5% of the world’s population,
25% of the world’s prisoners



people are behind bars



people have a criminal record


1 in 3 Black men and 1 in 6 Latino men
will serve time in prison in their lifetime


Since 1990, the female prison population has doubled


As many as 2.7 million children have an incarcerated parent


There are 400,000 people who have not been convicted of a crime sitting in jail on any given day, many because they lack the financial means to post bail



Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System

Founder and Executive Director of the Civil Rights Corps and former public defender, Alec Karakatsanis, published Usual Cruelty: The Complicity of Lawyers in the Criminal Injustice System, which highlights the desensitization of fellow lawyers complicit in perpetuating mass incarceration and the issues plaguing the criminal justice system. His collection of essays is a raw and real examination of our criminal justice system that serves as a call to action to us all and makes us reconsider what it means to truly fix it.

Between the World and Me

In a profound work that pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son, Ta-Nehisi Coates offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crisis.

Blood in the Water

Drawing from more than a decade of extensive research, historian Heather Ann Thompson sheds new light on every aspect of the Attica Correctional Facility uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all those who took part in this forty-five-year fight for justice: prisoners, former hostages, families of the victims, lawyers and judges, and state officials and members of law enforcement.

Burning Down the House

Nell Bernstein’s heartrending portraits of young people abused by the system intended to protect and “rehabilitate” them are interwoven with reporting on innovative programs that provide effective alternatives to putting children behind bars.


Former Washington Post reporter Pete Earley had written extensively about the criminal justice system. But it was only when his own son-in the throes of a manic episode-broke into a neighbor’s house that he learned what happens to mentally ill people who break a law.

Just Mercy

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need. Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Life on the Outside: the Prison Odyssey

Life on the Outside tells the story of Elaine Bartlett, who spent sixteen years in Bedford Hills prison for selling cocaine–a first offense–under New York’s Rockefeller drug laws. At 42, she finds herself without money, a job or home, while having to care for a large and troubled family who live in a decrepit housing project on the Lower East Side.

Locked Down, Locked Out

Through the stories of prisoners and their families, including her own family’s experiences, Maya Schenwar shows how the institution that locks up 2.3 million Americans and decimates poor communities of color is shredding the ties that, if nurtured, could foster real collective safety.

Locked In

An authoritative, clear-eyed account of a national catastrophe, Locked In transforms our understanding of what ails the American system of punishment and ultimately forces us to reconsider how we can build a more equitable and humane society.

The New Jim Crow

The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement.

Understanding Mass Incarceration

Understanding Mass Incarceration offers the first comprehensive overview of the incarceration apparatus put in place by the world’s largest jailer: the United States.