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We recommend all of these, but start with staff favorites, in yellow
- 30 Years on Death Row: A Conversation with Anthony Ray Hinton – The Marshall Project
- After Twenty-Six Years in Prison: Reflections on Healing – Jerry Elster
- America’s 10 Worst Prisons – Mother Jones Magazine
- Are video visits a smart innovation for jails—or yet another way to exploit families? – QZ.com
- Bryan Stevenson on Mass Incarceration, Racial Injustice: “We All Need Mercy; We All Need Justice” – Truthout
- Bryan Stevenson: ‘America’s Mandela’ – The Guardian
- Bryan Stevenson: ‘I don’t do what I do because I have to. I do what I do because I’m broken too’ – The Guardian
- Bryan Stevenson: If it’s not right to rape a rapist, how can it be OK to kill a killer? – The Guardian
- FBI Admits Flaws in Hair Analysis – Washington Post. “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000.The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison.
- FBI’s dog hair disgrace – In 1978, Santae Tribble, then 17, was convicted of a murder in D.C. based on the testimony of two FBI forensics experts. They asserted that a single hair strand found at the crime scene matched Tribble’s DNA. He served 28 years in prison before an independent analysis found that the hair was no match—it was a dog’s hair.
- Go to Trial: Crash the Justice System – Michelle Alexander
- Kids in Cages – UT lecturer and juvenile justice reformer Michele Deitch says Texas prisons are no place for kids. Now she and her students are changing laws and saving lives.
- Lead prosecutor Marty Stroud’s letter of apology to man he sent to death row. (Update)
- Life After Exoneration – Slate Magazine
- Mass Incarceration: The Silence of the Judges by Judge Rakoff
- The Year’s Most Disgusting Book by Matt Taibbi – Rolling Stone
- New Literature Tackles Big Questions on Mass Incarceration – Truthout
- Why Innocent People Plead Guilty by Judge Rakoff
- Bringing Down The New Jim Crow – Radio documentary series explores and gives voice to the continuing struggle for racial justice in the United States during the era of mass incarceration.
- Bryan Stevenson: Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved – Here & Now
- For A Crime He Didn’t Commit – Snap Judgement #606. What makes a man confess to a crime he didn’t commit — not once, but twice?
- Letter From A Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The Prison Show KPFT Archives – (click on the popup “All Shows” menu and choose The Prison Show).
- Serial Podcast
- LIVE from the NYPL: Bryan Stevenson with Sister Helen Prejean
- This American Life #119: Lockup – Stories of prison life, including that of Ray Hill, who founded “The Prison Show” on KPFT in Houston 30 years ago after a 4-year stint in prison for robbery.
- This American Life #210: Perfect Evidence – DNA evidence isn’t just proving wrongdoing by criminals, it’s proving wrongdoing by police and prosecutors.
- This American Life #430: Very Tough Love – Ira reports from Glynn County Georgia on Superior Court Judge Amanda Williams and how she runs the drug courts in Glynn, Camden and Wayne counties. Note: Williams stepped down from the bench in 2011 after complaints of misconduct, and was indicted in June 2015 on charges of giving false statements and violating her oath.
- This American Life #500: The View From In Here – Includes a segment about a screening of film maker Eugene Jarecki’s “The House I Live In,” during which an inmate and a corrections staff member ended up talking face-to-face.
- This American Life #507: Confessions – Two stories, both raise the question: What should a person suspected of murder say?
- Undisclosed Podcast (Serial Revisited)
The Story – Radio series about incarceration:
- Jennifer Thompson (co-author of “Picking Cotton”)
- LaMonte Armostrong
- Exonerated by DNA
- Huy Dao (Intake Coordinator at the Innocence Project)
- Julie Baumer
- After Innocence: Julie Baymer
- Scott Hornoff
- Actual Innocence: five days to execution and other dispatches from the wrongly convicted by Barry Scheck, Peter Nuefeld & Jim Dwyer
- Are Prisons Obsolete by Angela Davis
- At the Dark End of the Street by Danielle L. McGuire
- Behind The Walls: A Guide for Families and Friends of Texas Prison Inmates by Jorge Antonio Renaud
- Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
- Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crown: An Organizing Guide by Daniel Hunter
- Captive Nation: Black Prison Organizing in the Civil Rights Era by Dan Berger
- Caught: The Prison State and the Lockdown of American Politics by Marie Gottschalk
- Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice by Howard Zehr
- Chicken Soup For The Prisoner’s Soul by Jack Canfield
- Creative Community Organizing:
A Guide for Rabble-Rousers, Activists, and Quiet Lovers of Justice by Si Kahn
- Doing Life: Reflections Of Men And Women Serving Life Sentences by Howard Zehr
- Fatherhood Behind Bars by Jorge Antonio Renaud
- Finding a Voice: The Practice of Changing Lives Through Literature by Jean Trounstine and Robert Waxler
- Full Circle: A True Story of Murder, Lies, and Vindication by Gloria Killian
- Getting Life by Michael Morton
- Handbook for Writer’s in Prison by PEN American Center
- Interrupted Life: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States by Rickie Solinger
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Brian Stevenson
- The Justice Imperative: How Hyper-Incarceration Has Hijacked The American Dream by Brian E. Moran
- The Little Book of Restorative Justice: Revised and Updated (Justice and Peacebuilding) by Howard Zehr
- Letters From Prison by Monique Holeyfield
- Letters from Prison: Felons Write about the Struggle for Life and Sanity Behind Bars by Shawn Thompson
- Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We can Do Better by Maya Schenwar
- Long Time Coming: My Life and the Darryl Hunt Lesson by Jo Anne North Goetz
- A Manual for Direct Action by Martin Oppenheimer and George Lakey
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman
- Palpable Irony: Losing My Freedom to Find My Purpose by Martin Lockett.
- Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption by Jennifer Thompson-Cannino and Ronald Cotton.
- Race to Incarcerate by Marc Mauer
- Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling by Marc Mauer
- Razor Wire Women by Jody Michelle Lawston & Ashley E. Lucas
- The Real Cost of Prisons Comix – Lois Ahrens, Editor
- Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko
- Shakespeare Behind Bars: The Power of Drama in A Women’s Prison by Jean Trounstine
- The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League by Jeff Hobbs
- The Suspect: A Memoir: Surviving Three Decades of Accusation in Nashville’s Most Infamous Murder by Jeffrey Womack
- Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson by George Jackson
- Surviving Justice: America’s Wrongfully Convicted and Exonerated Compiled and Edited by Lola Vollen & Dave Eggers
- Three Felonies A Day: How The Feds Target The Innocent by Harvey A. Silverglate
- Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice by Adam Benforado
- The Unvarnished Truth About the Prison Family Journey by Carolyn Esparza & LPC Don Yow Sr.
- Unreasonable Inferences: The True Story of a Wrongful Conviction and Its Astonishing Aftermath by Michael Griesbach
- We’re All Doing Time – Bo Lozoff’s first book, (available in paperback or ebook), with over 400,000 copies in print, was hailed by The Village Voice as “one of the ten books everyone in the world should read,” and is acclaimed by prison staff and prisoners alike as one of the most helpful books ever written for true self-improvement and rehabilitation.
- Inside This Place, Not of It: Narratives from Women’s Prisons Edited by Ayelet Waldman and Robin Levi – Reveals some of the most egregious human rights violations within women’s prisons in the United States. Testimonies illustrate the harrowing struggles for survival that women in prison must endure.
- Writing As Resistance: The Journal of Prisoners on Prisons Anthology (1998-2002) – Dr Bob Gaucher, Editor
- After Innocence – This documentary, produced by a former Innocence Project clinic student, focuses on the DNA exonerations of seven wrongfully convicted men. It received the 2005 Sundance Film Festival Special Jury Prize. Visit the film website, watch it instantly on Netflix, buy it on Amazon.
- At The Death House Door – Chronicles the extraordinary journey of Pastor Carroll Pickett, who served 15 years as the death house chaplain to the infamous “Walls” prison unit in Huntsville.
- The Central Park Five – In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged with brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling them a “wolfpack.” The five would spend years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit before the truth about what really happened became clear.
Watch instantly on Netflix or iTunes or purchase the DVD or Blue-Ray at Shop PBS.
- Conviction – Tells the true story of a woman’s fight to prove her brother’s innocence. Watch instantly on Netflix or buy a DVD on Amazon.com.
- The House I Live In – Filmed in more than twenty states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of America’s War on Drugs.
- The Hurricane – The story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a boxer wrongly imprisoned for murder, and the people who aided in his fight to prove his innocence. Watch now or buy a DVD on Amazon.com.
- In the Name of the Father – This Oscar-nominated film tells the true story of a Gerry Conlon’s coerced confession to an IRA bombing he didn’t do; and a British lawyer’s fight to free Conlon and his father. Starring Daniel Day-Lewis and Pete Postlethwaite. Watch instantly or buy the DVD at Amazon.
- Kids for Cash – A riveting look behind the notorious scandal that rocked the nation and sent one judge to prison for 28 years.
- Murder on a Sunday Morning – This 2001 Oscar-winning documentary follows the defense in a murder trial of an African American teenager wrongly accused of robbing and murdering a white tourist in Florida. The film focuses on racism and misconduct in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. Buy a DVD at Amazon.com.
- Scenes of a Crime – Explores a nearly 10-hour interrogation that culminates in a disputed confession, and an intense, high-profile child murder trial in New York state. Watch instantly on iTunes, Vimeo or Distrify. DVD copies are also available for educators, libraries and legal practitioners.
- The Thin Blue Line – Errol Morris’ award-winning 1988 documentary presents compelling evidence that Randall Adams was wrongfully convicted of killing a police officer in Dallas, Texas. Watch instantly at Netflix, buy a DVD or watch now at Amazon.com.
- The Trials of Darryl Hunt – (2006) Break Thru Films’ documentary about Darryl Hunt’s decades-long fight for justice after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. The film follows Hunt’s multiple appeals and chronicles the police misconduct that contributed to the 20 years he spent in prison for a crime he did not commit. The film was on the short listed for a 2006 Academy Award for best documentary. Click here for to view a trailer. Watch instantly on Netflix or visit the film’s website.
- An Unreal Dream – In 1986 Michael Morton’s wife Christine is brutally murdered in front of their only child, and Michael is convicted of the crime. Locked away in Texas prisons for a quarter century, he has years to ponder questions of justice and innocence, truth and fate. Though he is virtually invisible to society, a team of dedicated attorneys spends years fighting for the right to test DNA evidence found at the murder scene. Their discoveries ultimately reveal that the price of a wrongful conviction goes well beyond one man’s loss of freedom. Buy the DVD or watch on Netflix or iTunes.
- 10 Things You Can Do To Support the Struggle for Prisoners’ Rights – Prisoners with Children
- Doing Your Time With Peace of Mind – A Meditation Manual for Prisoners – by Doug Booth
- Fighting For Our Rights: A Toolbox For Family Advocates Of California Prisoners – Outlines some basic tools that families of California state prisoners can use to fight for the rights of loved ones inside, and gives information on specific issues you may need to advocate about. Also included is an insert on Requesting Resentencing Under Three Strikes Reform.
- Inside Book Project Resource Guide – Inside Books Project sends this Resource Guide free of charge to any inmate in Texas.
- Letter From A Birmingham Jail – Martin Luther King, Jr.
- The Jailhouse Lawyer’s Handbook – How to bring a federal lawsuit to challenge violations of your rights in prison – published by Center for Constitutional Rights and National Lawyers Guild.
- Lynching in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror (Summary) – Equal Justice Initiative For a copy of the full-length report, send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call EJI at 334.269.1803.
- Manual on SSI & SSDI for Prisoners and Their Advocates – This manual explains the initial application process and the reconsideration and appeals processes. Information on how incarceration affects your SSI/SSDI benefits is included along with sample letters of advocacy.
- Prisoner Resource Directory – PARC Prison Activist Resource Center
- Research & Papers – Real Cost of Prisons Project
- Sacred Gates: Bringing Mindfulness to Prisons – A Volunteer’s Guide by Chris Canfield
- We The People Legal Primer – Prison Book Program publishes this popular 40-page legal primer for prisoners.
- What to Plan for When You Are Pregnant at California Institution for Women –*2013*
This manual was created for pregnant women currently housed at California Institution for Women. It addresses what to expect from arrival at prison to delivery, and how to create the best possible arrangements for the mother and her baby.
- World Prison Population List (10th Edition) – ICPS (International Centre for Prison Studies)
48 Hours (CBS)
- Grave Injustice – Convicted of murder and sentenced to death — 16 years later students help set Anthony Graves free.
60 Minutes Episodes (CBS)
- Eyewitness: How Accurate is Visual Memory? – The case of Ronald Cotton, who was wrongfully incarcerated for over ten years for a brutal rape and burglary he did not commit. Part 1
- ‘Eyewitness: How Accurate is Visual Memory?’ Part 2
- The Exonerated (2005) – Film version of the award-winning Off-Broadway play features the stories of six people who were exonerated after being sentenced to death. The cast includes Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover and Aidan Quinn. Watch instantly on Netflix, Buy a DVD on Amazon.
- The Interrogation of Michael Crowe (2002) – Focuses on a 14-year-old California boy who was targeted by police investigating the murder of his 12-year-old sister. Police aggressively interrogated Michael Crowe and ultimately coerced a false confession from him. This film won a Peabody Award and an American Bar Association award for its thoughtful handling of false confessions and the need to record interrogations.
- Stories of the Innocence Project Series – Programs include: Marvin Anderson’s Nightmare (2004); A Life Stolen (2004); Confessions of an Innocent Man (2005); What’s in a Name? (2005); Fingered with a Print (2005); Broken Words (2006); Unforgettable Face (2006)
This TV series “opens up the files” from the Innocence Project and takes an inside look at the stories of Innocence Project clients who were able to triumph in their fight for freedom, while highlighting key mistakes and causes for their wrongful convictions. Each episode is an hour long. Featured exonerees include: Bruce Godschalk, Marvin Anderson, Eddie Joe Lloyd, Jimmy Ray Bromgard, Dennis Fritz, Stephan Cowans and Anthony Michael Green.
- The System – The Wrong Man? (2001-2003) A series of specials investigating possible wrongful convictions. Features Edward Lee Elmore, who was convicted of murdering an elderly woman in South Carolina, and includes an interview with Barry Scheck. Other episodes investigate the cases of Marty Tankleff, Dennis Dechaine and Henry “Fred” Chichester.
- Death Row Stories – Explores cases that pose hard questions about the U.S. capital punishment system.
- Burden of Innocence (2003) – This look into the lives of five men who served years in prison for crimes they did not commit reveals the social, economic, and psychological challenges that people face post-exoneration.
- The Child Cases (2011) – An investigation by NPR, ProPublica and Frontline into more than 20 wrongful conviction cases involving faulty forensics in accidental child deaths.
- The Confessions (2010) – An award-winning documentary on the case of the “Norfolk Four” – Navy sailors convicted of a murder they didn’t commit after giving false confessions under pressure.
- Death by Fire (2010) – Examines the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas in 2004 for allegedly setting a fire that killed his three young daughters 13 years earlier. He always claimed his innocence, and the arson investigation used to convict him was questioned by leading experts before Willingham was executed. Since 2004, further evidence in the case has led to the inescapable conclusion that Willingham did not set the fire for which he was executed.
- Innocence Lost (1991) – Ofra Bikel’s three-part documentary raised serious questions about evidence in a notorious North Carolina day care abuse case.
- Requiem for Frank Lee Smith (2002) – An investigation by Ofra Bikel into Frank Lee Smith’s wrongful conviction of the rape and murder of a young girl.
- What Jennifer Saw (1997) – An examination of flaws in eyewitness identifications as evidence, through the lens of the case of Ronald Cotton, who served 12 years in North Carolina prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
- The Wronged Man (2010) – Calvin Willis was released from Louisiana State Penitentiary after more than 21 years of wrongful incarceration. The film focuses on Willis’ relationship with his longtime advocate, Janet Gregory, a single mom and paralegal, and her critical role in his exoneration. Visit the film website, Watch instantly on Netflix, Buy a DVD on Amazon.
- False Confessions (2006) – Focuses on the phenomenon of false confessions and interrogation tactics that can lead people to admit to crimes they did not commit. Includes the cases of John Restivo, Dennis Halstead and John Kogut, who were exonerated through DNA evidence in New York.
- And Then The World Changed Me – Jennifer Thompson’s Ted Talk
- Broken on All Sides – Mass incarceration across the nation and the intersection of race and poverty within criminal justice.
- Bryan Stevenson’s Ted Talk: We Need to Talk About an Injustice
- Bryan Stevenson on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
- Bryan Stevenson – The Justice Conference 2014
- LIVE from the NYPL: Bryan Stevenson with Sister Helen Prejean
- CNN: Is America’s death penalty in its dying days? With Bryan Stevenson
- Part I Bryan Stevenson on Ferguson, Prison Reform & Why the Opposite of Poverty is Justice – Democracy Now
- Part II Bryan Stevenson on Executions and Civil Rights: “Lynching Stopped But the Mindset Didn’t“ – Democracy Now
- Bryan Stevenson on Evening the Odds in American Justice – Moyers & Company
- Anthony Ray Hinton with Bryan Stevenson on His Exoneration After 30 Years on Death Row “They Couldn’t Take My Soul” – Democracy Now
- Indelible: The Case Against Jeffrey Womak
- Kids In Cages – Michelle Deitch and Jorge Antonio Renaud’s work in juvenile justice
- Marty Stroud speaks out on the Glenn Ford Case
- The Sentencing Project – Featured Videos
- Why are we trying kids as adults? – Michele Deitch, Tedx Talk
- Essential Reading list from usprisonculture.com
- Melanie Newport compiled an excellent reading list for those interested in learning about the history of American prisons. You can see it here.
- Legal Resources for Inmates – Prison Policy Initiative
- Links to Organizations & Information – Real Cost of Prisons Project
- Prison Family Bill of Rights
- Prison Talk Online – Online community support forum for families of inmates.
- Prison Policy Initiative Research Clearinghouse – databases to empower activists, journalists, and policymakers to shape effective criminal justice policy.
- World Prison Population Data – International Centre for Prison Studies