From the Inside Out: Voices and Perspectives from America’s Justice System

Incarceration impacts us all. 35,000 Coloradans are currently behind bars in prison, jail, or another type of detention facility. Many members of our community have served time - around 20% of the state’s prison population comes from Denver, though the city makes up only 12% of Colorado’s total population. 

Denver Public Library’s collection is full of titles written and created by those who have been incarcerated and/or impacted by the U.S. justice system. From memoirs and autobiographies, to poetry and creative works, to thoughtful reflections on reforming and reimagining incarceration in America, this list offers a wide variety of books to appeal to all readers. 

  • Leonard Peltier’s Prison Writings: My Life is My Sun Dance is a memoir reflecting on the American Indian Movement activist’s life and time serving two consecutive life sentences since 1977. Peltier’s conviction has faced much scrutiny and continues to gain attention from numerous organizations and public figures advocating for his clemency. Published in 1999 after decades behind bars, Prison Writings remains a significant read today as Peltier continues to reside in the Coleman Federal Corrections Complex in Florida.
  • Detailing a life full of extremes, Keri Blakinger’s Corrections in Ink chronicles her rise as an elite athlete followed by her struggles with an eating disorder, drug addiction, and, eventually, a conviction for possession of heroin. Upon her release, Blakinger relies on her experience and perspective serving time to become a successful journalist exposing the flaws of the justice system.
  • Reginald Dwayne Betts’ Felon is a powerful collection of poems exploring the ways incarceration maintains a hold over the individual long after they have been released. A wide variety makes up this title, but some of the most unique poems are created from the redacted court documents of lawsuits filed on behalf of prisoners.
  • Activist and author Angela Y. Davis posed the question 20 years ago, Are Prisons Obsolete? Her thoughtful exploration of abolition continues to spark discussion decades after it was first published. Considering the social progress in America’s not-so-distant history and the injustices of our current justice system, Davis’ argument for decarceration contains hope for the future.
  • What We Know: Solutions from our Experiences in the Justice System gathers top submissions from The New Press, the Center for American Progress, and the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples and Family Movement’s call to those currently or formerly serving time to share ideas on prison reform. Creative, reflective, and insightful, this collection considers those most impacted by the justice system by sharing their meaningful perspectives.

Blog post submitted by Hannah Evans.

Written by Dodie on December 7, 2022

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