Sharing the Burden of Repair: Reentry After Mass Incarceration A Wising Up Listening Project
Heather Tosteson and Charles D. Brockett
This book describes a six-year listening project on reentry that took place at the crest of an unusual wave of bipartisan criminal justice reform in Georgia, one of our most punishing states. Its primary intended audience is common citizens, like us, concerned about the reality of mass incarceration but unsure how to engage. Its aim is to expand, individual story by individual story, our understanding of the importance of successful reentry after an age of mass incarceration and help us take on those difficult questions: Where and how do we fit in? What can we change?
We listened to over 200 people: formerly incarcerated men and women, families, defense lawyers, activists, employers, chaplains, juvenile courts and justice officials, diversion courts, prosecutors, judges, community supervision officers, commissioners of corrections and community corrections, and legislators involved with criminal justice reform. We heard stories people within our adversarial criminal justice system rarely share directly with one another, each with a wisdom to it that we all need.
By bringing them together here, we hope that new stories—more complex, compassionate, inclusive ones—can come into being, stories that acknowledge the lasting harms of both mass incarceration and crime and our capacities for remorse and change as individuals and as a society.
597 pp. ISBN: 978-1-7324514-5-2 Publication Date: August 1, 2020
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This is a wonderful book. Moving. Honest. Detailed. The stories grip me; they stay with me. I hope many students read this book. Teachers, too. What they learn will help them be better at the changes we so desperately need. —Todd R.Clear, University Professor, Rutgers Law School, author of Imprisoning Communities, The Punishment Imperative, and American Corrections
This wise and compelling book reminds us that reentry is much more than the single experience of an individual leaving prison. An entire community is impacted. By elevating multiple first-person reentry stories, the authors bring these kaleidoscopic perspectives to life. Our understanding of reentry is immeasurably enriched by listening to these voices. Most powerfully, the book asks a heretical question: if we recognized that everyone who has strayed returns home, how would we rethink our approach to crime and punishment? Long after reading the book, that haunting question hangs in the air. Answering that question will also require careful listening to the voices of those same communities. —Jeremy Travis, Executive Vice President of Criminal Justice, Arnold Ventures, author of But They All Come Back: Facing the Challenges of Prisoner Reentry.
This work provides a rare, real, and in-depth view of the corrections system from the views of the offender, administrator, and stakeholder. It reveals what is going well, what's not working, and what we as a system need to start doing. Definitely a worthwhile and lasting read. —Michael W. Nail, Commissioner, Georgia Department of Community Supervision
When students ask how they can help to end mass incarceration and the political climate that creates and sustains it, I tell them the first thing they have to do is to learn to listen – not to me, but to the voices of those who have survived imprisonment and found a way toward reintegration. So, it comes as no surprise that this powerful and timely book is the product of a remarkable process of sustained listening. These are the stories behind the numbers that make up mass incarceration and they are our best hope for redemption. —Shadd Maruna, author of Making Good: How Ex-Convicts Reform and Rebuild Their Lives
This book is a “MUST READ,” an assemblage of stories that shares the most comprehensive views on one of the most challenging issues in this century, mass incarceration. While relating the history of Georgia’s Reentry journey, the book communicates gripping stories that give insight and awareness to any and all readers. It transcends the borders of Georgia. I could hear the theme song from “The Help” movie, “The Living Proof,” as each chapter, section, and story revealed another perceptive point of view. This book is not only relevant and appropriate to the common citizen, but to the criminal justice profession, faith and community based organizations, governments, academia, for-profit and non-profit organizations, families, and all impacted by incarceration. And every person and institution in America is impacted by incarceration! My question: “What are we going to do today?” We must work to change the world. —A.J. Sabree, MS, ThM: former Director of Reentry Services and Assistant Director of Chaplaincy, Georgia Department of Corrections
Sharing the Burden of Repairis a must read for people interested in corrections. Through a collection of conversations and listening sessions, the authors provide a unique blend of perspectives to paint a picture of the progressive path that Georgia's criminal justice system has taken towards those under supervision as well as a broader approach to building community. The stories are raw and show both the passion of those in the system as well as the ongoing struggle to shift from a "catch people doing wrong to promoting success" model. —Brian Lovins,PhD, Principal/Justice System Partners, President-Elect/American Probation and Parole Association
As the title implies, Sharing the Burden of Repair invites ordinary citizens into the complex conversations around our current criminal justice system. It makes the point that, even without personal contact with the system, each and every citizen impacts, and is impacted by, it.The book explores one central organizing question: What would a criminal justice system that includes constructive reintegration as its responsibility, its primary goal, look like? The work focuses on Georgia, but the issues are universal. This is an ambitious undertaking. It is impossible to talk about any one aspect of criminal justice reform without including the whole, as the detailed introduction so ably points out.Thus, over the course of six years, the authors have asked themselves tough questions, and taken them to all actors in the system through listening interviews.The resulting volume is smart, informed and informative, organizing the vast number of issues into interconnected and understandable units. While the project does not purport to be a guide to reentry reform, its broad-reaching and extensive examination of causes and potential solutions for criminal justice reform is notable for its detailed research and supporting first-person accounts. Sharing the Burden is both a challenge and a call to action for anyone concerned about the individual and social costs of incarceration, especially how to reshape the process to accommodate its ultimate goal: re-entry of the majority of those incarcerated back to their communities. OUR communities. —Sarah W. Bartlett, founder of writinginsideVT, a writing program for incarcerated women and co-editor of two volumes of writing from that work: Hear Me, See Me: Incarcerated Women Write and Lifelines: Re-Writing Lives from Inside Out.
Sharing the Burden of Repairis an excellent tool to begin meaningful, insightful dialogue about the plight of public safety in our community, dialogue that should prompt positive intervention beyond conversation. —Rev. Thurmond N. Tillman, Pastor, First African Baptist Church, Savannah