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Criminal Injustice

In 2016 I began teaching courses, mostly for college credit, at Jessup Correctional Institution in Jessup, MD and, two years later, also at the DC Jail in Washington, DC. Teaching in prison was something I had wanted to do for a long time, although I couldn’t have explained exactly why. Coming to know and become friends with incarcerated students, and my increasing understanding of the injustice and horrors of the criminal justice system, have given me new goals for my post-academic life. My main focus these days is on prison work and criminal justice reform (“revolution” is probably a better term).

At Jessup, I’ve taught and tutored in the University of Baltimore’s Second Chance College Program, which began in 2015; at the D.C. Jail, in Georgetown University’s Prison Scholars Program, which began in 2018.

I’m on the advisory board of Georgetown’s Prisons and Justice Initiative, and I work with the Maryland Alliance for Justice Reform (MAJR)


Writings of mine on criminal justice

"Abolish Life Sentences," Aeon, August 12, 2022

“Against Life Without Parole,” Washington University Jurisprudence Review 11 (2019).

“How US Prisons Violate Three Principles of Justice,” Aeon, September 19, 2016.

“Against Life and Death Sentences,” University of Tsukuba (Tokyo, Japan) Law Journal, 2020.

Good organizations focusing on criminal justice


Ear Hustle (podcast from San Quentin)

Criminal (podcast hosted by Phoebe Judge)

More Perfect (Radiolab offshoot; see especially "Object Anyway" and "Cruel and Unusual")

College Behind Bars (Lynn Novick and Ken Burns documentary)

Famous Trials (from Douglas Linder, UMKC Law School)

Witness to an Execution (audio from the Texas death house)

Blame (Radiolab episode)

Legal Information Institute

Oyez (archive of the US Supreme Court)

A few good books

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, Bryan Stevenson

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, Michele Alexander

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, James Forman Jr.

Chokehold: Policing Black Men, Paul Butler

Guilty People, Abbe Smith

Law Man: Memoir of a Jailhouse Lawyer, Shon Hopwood

The Meaning of Life: The Case for Abolishing Life Sentences, Marc Mauer and Ashley Nellis

Locked In: The True Causes of Mass Incarceration and How to Achieve Real Reform, John F. Pfaff

Unusually Cruel: Prisons, Punishment, and the Real American Exceptionalism, Marc Howard

Dark Ghetto: Injustice, Dissent, and Reform, Tommie Shelby

The Limits of Blame: Rethinking Punishment and Responsibility, Erin Kelly

Prisoners of Politics: Breaking the Cycle of Mass Incarceration, Rachel Elise Barkow

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