One Book 2020-2021: the US Carceral System

One Book Research and Resource Guide for Just Mercy & Becoming Ms. Burton

2020-2021 GRC One Book Program

Holman Library logo    One Book: 2020-2021

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What's in this guide?

This guide was created to guide you to sources and information about these books, as well as the array of social issues they bring to our attention. Use the tabs to the left to navigate the pages in this guide, and be sure to use the "Find Help @ GRC" tab to get more help from your librarians!

Vocabulary to consider

Language is Political and Personal

All communities have preferred language to talk about their experiences and identities. 

When discussing the US legal and carceral system, the words we use to discuss people, actions, laws, and issues reflect different points of view.

Please consider using language considered respectful by the system-impacted community. 

Note: This guide was created by Jody Segal, Christina DelliSante, and Sue Schub in August, 2020. If you see errors, have questions, or suggestions for improvement, let us know by using the contact information on the "Find Help @ GRC" page of this guide!

Incarceration in the US

"The United States has the world’s highest incarceration rate; 2.3 million Americans are in prison today. Fueled by the “war on drugs” and “tough on crime” mandatory sentencing policies, mass incarceration has a clear racial impact: 70 percent of American prisoners are non-white. The average American has a 1 in 20 chance of being imprisoned at some point in his life, but that rate is much higher for Latino men (1 in 6) and African American men (more than 1 in 3) than for white men (1 in 23). Strikingly, 1 in 9 Black men under age 25 lives under some form of restrained liberty: in prison, in jail, on probation, or on parole."

- An Equal Justice Initiative article "Race in the Criminal Justice System" (linked & cited below)

"We have the world’s largest number and percentage of incarcerated people, and 77% of people released from state prisons are rearrested within five years. As the Prison Policy Initiative says, poverty is not only a predictor of incarceration, it’s also frequently the outcome, as a criminal record and time spent in prison “destroys wealth, creates debt and decimates job opportunities.” 

-Seattle Times columnist, Naomi Ishisaka, Monday July 13 (linked & cited below)

Source citations: "Race and the Criminal Justice System." Equal Justice Initiative, 10 Oct. 2014, eji.org/news/ history-racial-injustice-race-and-criminal-justice/. Accessed 22 Sept. 2020.

Ishisaka, Naomi. "Envision a Criminal Legal System that Doesn't Throw People Away." Seattle Times, 13 July 2020, www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/ envision-a-criminal-justice-system-that-actually-makes-us-safer/. Accessed 22 Sept. 2020.