Earlier this week, several staff and interns from CGLA participated in the Loyola Summer Book Discussion. A group of over 40 law students, attorneys, and other people passionate about justice gathered to discuss The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. This book examines the increasing trends of mass incarceration in the United States over the past few decades, and provides a context for the policies, laws, and practices that led to the US having the largest incarcerated population in the world.
At CGLA, we see many of the ramifications of increased arrest and incarceration rates in the lives of our clients across all practice areas. Whether it is a criminal defense client who is faced with accepting a plea deal that would hinder future employment and housing opportunities, a single mother who is being evicted from public housing because her 20-year old son was arrested for possession of marijuana off of public housing property, a father who was incarcerated and lost visitation rights to see his children, or a client trying to seal her dismissed drug case from 15 years ago in order to start a new job. Every day, we represent clients whose lives are affected by the policies discussed by Alexander, trying to help them leave us stronger than they came to us and decrease the stigma and barriers associated with interaction with the criminal justice system.
Reading this book, however, has provided us the framework to examine the larger systems that create the reality of our clients' lives and has continued to spark discussion around our office of, "now what are we going to do?"
Do you know of any other books about this issue? Have you read other good books lately? We would love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!