cover image What We Know: Solutions from Our Experiences in the Justice System

What We Know: Solutions from Our Experiences in the Justice System

Edited by Vivian Nixon and Daryl Atkinson. New Press, $26.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-62097-529-9

Criminal justice reform advocates Nixon and Atkinson, both of whom have served time in prison, present a unique and valuable collection of essays by currently and formerly incarcerated people offering “concrete solutions to some of the hardest and ugliest problems in the criminal legal system.” The authors’ stark descriptions of racial violence and “dehumanizing” conditions paint a grim picture of prison life and provide an insider’s perspective not found in the works of social scientists and criminologists. Their reform ideas include a quixotic but well-informed argument to abolish the punishment clause of the 13th Amendment (which allows for the exploitation of prison labor), and programs to reduce recidivism through literacy training (70% of incarcerated prisoners can only read at a fourth-grade level or below), increasing access to digital technologies during and after incarceration, and the earmarking of certain state jobs for ex-offenders. Other contributions tackle prisoner voting rights and the rehabilitation of juvenile offenders (“the backbone of our adult mass incarceration problem”). Uniformly well-written and cogently argued, these essays cast a harsh light on the prison system and the obstacles millions of Americans face in getting their lives back on track. Policy makers, lawyers, and activists should take note. (May)