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Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores Paperback – February 6, 2018
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"An astonishing book―full of insights that draw from history, politics, social research, and Scripture. Gilliard crafts a compelling picture that links local policy and decisions and shows the impact on a national scale. This book is a thought-provoking call to the church to take a practical role in engaging with mass incarceration and its effects." (Nikki Toyama-Szeto, executive director, Evangelicals for Social Action (ESA))
"Dominique gives a thorough, honest look at the history of mass incarceration, blending advocacy and theology and driving us to respond as a community of faith. This is a must-read from a leader whose passion inspires hope." (Leroy Barber, Voices Project, board chair of Missio Alliance, author of Embrace)
"Walking in the footsteps of Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, Dominique Gilliard lays out here the history and structure of mass incarceration in the United States, touching on all its sinister complications and biases; the equally sinister theological and scriptural moves that have accompanied it; and, most important of all, the powerful alternative vision and program that the church can―and must―now embody as it begins to dismantle this horror. A sustained, passionate, prophetic, and constructive work." (Douglas A. Campbell, professor of New Testament, Divinity School, Duke University)
"This is the book I've been waiting for. Since the publication of The New Jim Crow, we have needed an analysis of incarceration and justice from a Christian perspective. Rethinking Incarceration is a powerful book that needs to circulate widely, for in it we learn not only of the issues, but how to move forward for desperately needed restorative change." (Michael O. Emerson, provost and professor, North Park University, author of Divided by Faith)
"In this stunning book that moves your heart, mind, and soul, Dominique Gilliard dissects mass incarceration and the narrative that helped create it. He shows with precision that slavery did not end, it just evolved. If you've ever doubted that sin is not just personal but also systemic, read this book. Dominique helps light the way forward away from the punitive justice that is crushing two million people today and toward the restorative justice at the heart of the Christian faith, the stuff the gospel is made of―where there is healing for both the victims and the victimizers, the captives are set free, the yokes of oppression are crushed, and grace gets the last word." (Shane Claiborne, author and activist)
"In a time of great anxiety, knowledge and wisdom are desperately needed. In Rethinking Incarceration, Dominique Gilliard provides well-researched content as well as insightful stories that provide the essential foundation for a long overdue dialogue on mass incarceration. The church needs this primer on the history of incarceration in the United States and needs to hear the cogent theological analysis and response that is offered. This text should now be required reading for any thinking and feeling American Christian who wants to engage the topic of mass incarceration in a meaningful way." (Soong-Chan Rah, author of The Next Evangelicalism and Prophetic Lament)
"From slavery and Jim Crow to mass incarceration, the confinement and control of black bodies in the United States has always been the heartbeat of the Republic's strategy to maintain white dominion. Twisted theologies grew like hedges of support and wicked webs of justification for crimes against the humanity of African peoples. White supremacy's most long-standing strategy has largely stayed intact because we have not cut down its supports at the root. Dominique Gilliard's Rethinking Incarceration chops at the roots of mass incarceration by challenging the theological premises upon which it rests. Gilliard's exacting historical lens, combined with masterful biblical work, unravels and uproots the hedges of support for mass incarceration while painting a new theological vision of reform and redemption in the United States. This is a must-read." (Lisa Sharon Harper, founder and president, FreedomRoad.us)
"Dominique DuBois Gilliard's book is both hopeful and tough. The social and historical analysis is filled with hard truths. Incarceration in the United States cannot be separated from our racial history of the slavocracy in its former and contemporary forms. Gilliard writes to all who are deeply committed to embodying Christian understanding of justice, mercy, and restoration. Beginning with the view that restoration is required for those who have been imprisoned is expected in a book such as this, but Gilliard advocates for the restoration needed by the church and individual outside the confinement of prison. Real restoration involves being and becoming a faith community whose theological anthropology recognizes the full humanity of all―the imprisoned and the ones on the other side of the bars. Such a theological anthropology calls the church to give up its preoccupation with punishment in favor of love and restoration. If you have ever taken time to notice the injustices that permeate our system of justice and have been brokenhearted by the abuses, racism, and privilege that doles out prison sentences to some and offers grace to others, you will be challenged by Rethinking Incarceration." (Phillis Isabella Sheppard, associate professor of religion, psychology, and culture, Vanderbilt University Divinity School)
"This book is quick, informative, and deeply transformational. Our understanding of the human condition, notions of punishment and reform, and the nature of God are all at stake in Dominique Gilliard’s theological and passionately argued work. Gilliard expertly traces our complicated relationship with prisons and mass incarceration through poignant historical analysis and compelling biblical argumentation. Rethinking Incarceration has the rare power to change the church in America." (Ken Wytsma, author of The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege)
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The opening half of the book, where the author most heavily discusses incarceration and systemic racism within the criminal justice system, is best described as a rehash of Michelle Alexander's "The New Jim Crow." And, to be fair, the New Jim Crow is the authority on the subject. But this topic is too expansive to rehash and summarize. It leaves too many too chunks of meat left on the bone and the reader is left hanging for more information. Granted, this will spark curiosity and possibly further reading, but low hanging fruit is never a bad thing.
I also felt that the biblical referencing was incomplete as well which probably hurt the most. I found the author too many times simply referencing a Bible verse/passage and then not saying what that passage says.
Too many times I had to stop reading and Google the referenced verse to see what it even said. This made for a choppy reading experience and it was off putting.
Did I learn stuff? Sure, but I feel like there could have been more.
If you are white and follow Jesus and you don’t understand why race and incarceration are a big deal. Please. Please read this book.