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Rethinking Incarceration: Advocating for Justice That Restores

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2018 IVP Readers' Choice Award 16th Annual Outreach Magazine Resource of the Year - Social Issues/Justice

The United States has more people locked up in jails, prisons, and detention centers than any other country in the history of the world. Mass incarceration has become a lucrative industry, and the criminal justice system is plagued with bias and unjust practices. And the church has unwittingly contributed to the problem. Dominique Gilliard explores the history and foundation of mass incarceration, examining Christianity's role in its evolution and expansion. He then shows how Christians can pursue justice that restores and reconciles, offering creative solutions and highlighting innovative interventions. The church has the power to help transform our criminal justice system. Discover how you can participate in the restorative justice needed to bring authentic rehabilitation, lasting transformation, and healthy reintegration to this broken system.

192 pages, Paperback

Published February 6, 2018

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About the author

Dominique DuBois Gilliard

4 books52 followers
Dominique DuBois Gilliard is the director of racial righteousness and reconciliation for the Love Mercy Do Justice (LMDJ) initiative of the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC). He serves on the boards of directors for the Christian Community Development Association and Evangelicals for Justice. In 2015, he was selected as one of the ECC’s “40 Under 40” leaders to watch, and the Huffington Post named him one of the “Black Christian Leaders Changing the World.” An ordained minister, Gilliard has served in pastoral ministry in Atlanta, Chicago, and Oakland. He was executive pastor of New Hope Covenant Church in Oakland, California and also served in Oakland as the associate pastor of Convergence Covenant Church. He was also the campus minister at North Park University and the racial righteousness director for ECC’s ministry initiatives in the Pacific Southwest Conference. With articles published in the CCDA Theology Journal, The Covenant Quarterly, and Sojourners, Gilliard has also blogged for Christianity Today, Faith & Leadership, Red Letter Christians, Do Justice, and The Junia Project. He earned a bachelor’s degree in African American Studies from Georgia State University and a master’s degree in history from East Tennessee State University, with an emphasis on race, gender, and class in the United States. He also earned an MDiv from North Park Seminary, where he served as an adjunct professor teaching Christian ethics, theology, and reconciliation.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 111 reviews
Profile Image for Laura Dallas.
127 reviews
January 23, 2018
After I read "Just Mercy" by Bryan Stevenson, I wanted to know more about what to do about it. I was excited to see this book about how the church could be involved in reforming the criminal justice system. Gilliard references "Just Mercy" and "The New Jim Crow" in this book and refers to his book as a sort of sequel to these important works, and I would agree. Gilliard does a good job of summing up our country's history of racial injustice and its relationship to the enormous problems in the criminal justice system. He then highlights a few areas that were not focused on in the other two books: mental health, private prisons, immigration, and the school-to-prison pipeline. He brings the church into it with a history of the church's complicity in these systems and how it relates to poor theology. Throughout, Gilliard makes a passionate plea for the church to advocate for restorative justice as it is modeled in the bible, and he thoroughly proves this way to be God's way with poignant study of scripture. Gilliard concludes the book with inspiring examples of the good work some churches are doing to fight this epidemic and implores all churches to change the way they think about justice based on better theology and a an accurate understanding of how the system is broken. I would recommend this book to every Christian and every church, especially those considering justice or prison ministries. It is just not right that the poor, young, marginalized, sick, traumatized, imprisoned, and even the criminal should be treated so poorly. It is not how Jesus taught us to love. I received a free copy of this ebook from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
June 22, 2019
Mass incarceration is a bit of a hot topic at the moment. This book isn't the first to tackle the issue, but it's arguably the first to do so from a Christian perspective that also takes the Christian church to task for being part of the problem. ECC pastor Dominique Du Bois Gilliard builds on the backs of similar books by Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson and Christopher D. Marshall to present a compelling summation of the racist history of mass incarceration, the various elements that feed it (from Jim Crow and black codes to the war on drugs, private prisons, zero-tolerance policies, convict leasing, school-to-prison pipelines, locking up mentally ill people and more).

But he also argues that the church in America has contributed to this by supporting a criminal justice system that focuses on retributive punishment and policies that make reintegration into society almost impossible. Gilliard explores and criticizes the theological underpinnings of retributive justice, arguing that the Bible calls for restorative justice that truly rehabilitates offenders. He calls for the church to confess to its complicity in a racist and corrupt criminal justice system so that it can become an advocate for restorative justice, and gives examples of how this could be (and in certain communities has been) achieved.

Personally, I found his thesis convincing, compelling and well argued. Whether other readers will agree is likely going to depend on their political affiliations, which (if any) church they attend and their ability to approach this issue with an open mind. While the book is aimed primarily at a Christian audience, I think, if nothing else, non-Christians will find at least the first part of the book informative, and might even get something out of the rest of it.
Profile Image for Cara Meredith.
1,029 reviews23 followers
March 10, 2018
Gilliard builds on the arguments of Alexander and Stevenson with additional layers of biblical and theological arguments. Well done!
Profile Image for Bob.
1,853 reviews621 followers
August 20, 2018
Summary: A call for Christians to address mass incarceration in the United States that considers its pipelines, its history, and proposes alternatives to prison and a focus not merely on punishment but upon restoration.

It is time for Christians to rise up and make a holy interruption to the system of mass incarceration pervading the United State's criminal justice system. Dominique DuBois Gilliard contends that it is  system that not only dehumanizes the imprisoned, but all of us as a nation. To document the unusual situation that pertains in the U. S., he writes:

While the United States constitutes only 5 percent of the world’s population, we have 25 percent of its incarcerated populace. Statistically, our nation currently has more people locked up—in jails, prisons, and detention centers—than any other country in the history of the world. We currently have more jails and prisons than degree-granting colleges and universities. In some areas of the country, there are more people living behind bars than on college campuses.

One out of every twenty-five people sentenced to the death penalty are falsely convicted. In many states, pregnant women are shackled to gurneys during their delivery. Thirteen states have no minimum age for prosecuting children as adults, such that children as young as eight have been tried and sentenced as adults, left vulnerable to trauma and abuse while living among adults in jails and prisons.

Eighty thousand inmates per day are locked in solitary confinement, where they are quarantined in a twelve by seven foot concrete cell (smaller than a standard horse stall), frequently for twenty-three hours a day, and are only allowed outdoor access and human interaction for one hour. This dehumanizing form of “incarceration” is more accurately defined as torture—a slow assault on the dignity of individuals and a strategic disintegration of their body and psyche.

Gilliard retraces the history of how we have gotten here, ground that has been covered in part by Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (review), showing how the War on Drugs, and other law and order initiatives have been disproportionately applied in minority communities, and disenfranchised a significant part of the adult population--an extension by other means of efforts to subjugate blacks and other ethnic minorities. What Gilliard adds to this analysis is tracing several other pipelines that have resulted in our mass incarceration crisis: crackdown on immigration offenses, decreased funding for mental health, private prisons and detention centers, and the school-to-prison pipeline.

Gilliard then examines the church's witness. He argues that in addition to supporting conservative "law and order" approaches, he contends that the Protestant church's atonement theory of penal substitution has perpetuated an emphasis on punishment as a sanctifying influence with little or no emphasis on restoration, nor on alternatives to incarceration. Gilliard does not argue that there should be no penalties for crime and acknowledges that incarceration for some is necessary. Rather, he argues that this one-sided focus on retributive punishment is inadequate in terms of a biblical understanding of justice, which he contends is also restorative, both in terms of perpetrators, and in terms of the relationships violated by their acts.

He argues for four responses by the church:

1. Prevention services to stop incarceration before it starts.
2. Ministry with people who are currently incarcerated.
3. Ministries with the families and loved ones of people who are currently incarcerated.
4. Re-entry services for the formerly incarcerated.

His concluding chapter spotlights outstanding examples of programs addressing these responses.

I had only one reservation about his otherwise compelling argument. I believe he caricatures the idea of penal substitution, which I would contend actually provides a basis in the cross where Father and Son act together, such that love and justice meet in God's bearing in God's self the curse for our sins. Yes, there is penalty, and yes, this act effects restoration of a lost humanity. I believe this doctrine, much maligned in contemporary discussion, actually provides the most powerful warrant for the approach to incarceration he advocates. I will admit that it may be possible that the caricature of this doctrine did shape church attitudes toward incarceration, although I would be interested in a closer look at that contention.

In Matthew 25, prisoners are among "the least of these" for whom we are to care. Mass incarceration is one of the ways systemic racism is perpetuated in our country, which not only is a burden upon ethnic minority communities but upon all of us, not only financially but also spiritually. Gilliard commends ministries that are implementing actions to bring "holy interruptions" to mass incarceration. I would commend two in the Central Ohio community where I live (there are numerous others but I have friends involved in these initiatives) Kairos Prison Ministry and CleanTurn Enterprises. Kairos is a national ministry working both with prisoners in prison, and with their families. CleanTurn has demolition and cleaning services, and a cafe' in the Columbus Hilltop area that provide opportunities for employment and career development for formerly incarcerated individuals.

For many of us, this is an "out of sight, out of mind" problem (I include myself here). Gilliard reminds us that we wouldn't have much of the Bible apart from the prophetic witness of many who suffered imprisonment. In Acts, in the history of the early church, and in many parts of the world today, vibrant witness and being incarcerated went hand and hand. As we pray for revival in the church, are we aware that this might be one of the implications of our prayers? At very least, Gilliard's book invites us to "go to prison" one way or another as part of gospel faithfulness.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Elise.
200 reviews13 followers
May 23, 2019

Although I was very grateful the history and context offered in the first section in the book, it was the second section’s focus on biblical restorative justice that really inspired, challenged, and moved me. May it be.
Profile Image for Micah Dean.
24 reviews
September 12, 2021
Oftentimes, the historical conversation surrounding systemic injustice leading to mass incarceration starts with the War on Drugs - however, Dubois Gilliard goes back even further in time to black codes, convict leasing, and profiteering which lays the groundwork post-slavery for what was to come in Jim Crow and the War on Drugs. I was completely unaware of the convict leasing system and how it was basically slavery “in everything but name.”

Gilliard does a great job of laying the framework for his argument that justice should not solely be retributive but restorative, transformative and focused on reintegration - for the sake of the offender AND the community at large.

However, I did take issue with his assertion that one of the ways Christians enabled this system of retributive justice is because of reformed atonement theology. He argues that the notion that God’s wrath needed to be satisfied against our sin dismisses God as a God of love and redemption and only focuses on His need to punish wrongdoing solely. From my vantage point, I don’t think that’s an accurate depiction of the God of reformed theology. On the contrary, God is a God of mercy, love and redemption because He knows justice calls for punishment on wrongdoing but he absorbs the punishment Himself AND gives His Spirit for transformation and sanctification to transform and redeem. He seems to take issue with the doctrine of substitutionary atonement itself rather than the flawed outworking of that theology in fallen, narrow-minded men.

One last argument he makes is that much of “reformed theology” (my label not his) makes Christians who focus almost exclusively on the afterlife, because their eternities are secure, at the expense of seeking the good of their neighbors here on earth and advocating for justice and rightness in our societies. I agree with this assessment, as many Christians I know, including myself at times, explain away things happening in this life as “God has it in control … and we’re made for another place anyway” as a way to get out of our responsibility and calling to be salt and light on earth. This is a tragedy in the church today as we are very much becoming the irrelevant social group MLK foresaw us becoming because of our lack of prophetic zeal.

In the last chapter, Gilliard outlines different examples of restorative justice that he sees playing out across the US. I’m very thankful and challenged by the ways Christians have sought to produce change in our justice system through education, employment opportunities, working with at-risk youth, and welcomed ex-convicts into churches.

Overall, a very solid book which challenged my thinking and was rooted in theology and a biblical worldview. Recommend the read.
Profile Image for Joel Wentz.
998 reviews61 followers
February 25, 2019
This is a great addition to the conversation spurred on by books like "The New Jim Crow" and "Just Mercy." Gilliard draws heavily on those books (and others) but manages to contribute a new and much-needed perspective by making an explicitly theological argument. He also adds some depth and nuance by pointing to the causes of our mass incarceration issue beyond only the 'war on drugs.'

The result is a well-researched, powerfully-argued clarion call for American Christians to wake up, repent, and do something. We are well past the point of ignoring mass incarceration as a uniquely American problem, though Gilliard provides ample hard data if you are still skeptical. He then moves into theological and historical territory, making the case that problematic atonement theology has under-girded much of the problem in our society (and I must admit, I was already decidedly not a fan of penal-substitution before reading this, which only pushed me farther in that direction!). This is a great book for someone who is open to the argument, but not interested in the more-technical work of Michelle Alexander. It's also a fantastic supplement to other books on the subject, especially for those with a more theologically-oriented mind. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Nate.
35 reviews
June 22, 2020
I got access to this book through IVP's free book giveaway on faithful justice (kudos to IVP!). Gilliard is a pastor and advocate for reform of the US criminal justice system. Most of his statistics were similar to the documentary 13th (Netflix), Just Mercy (Brian Stevenson), and the New Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander, which I have not read yet). After just a brief exposure to these sources, I do not know how someone can deny the problematic reality of mass incarceration in the United States or that is discriminatory based on racial/socioeconomic status. Gilliard is more holistic in his examination that some of these other sources, and has an appropriate balance of anecdotal, statistical, scriptural, and historical evidence. I do disagree with some of Gilliard's theological conclusions (i.e. his issues with penal substitution), but he stretched my thinking for the better. This was my first real exposure to the concept of restorative justice, and I was grateful to see it through the eyes of a Christian. In hindsight I wish I had read this book instead of listening to it; Gilliard's passion and depth of research was difficult to follow audibly.
Profile Image for Andy Montero.
25 reviews
March 15, 2021
I found this book helpful, challenging and a bit overwhelming. I’m grateful it’s not just informative but also has prescriptive measures that serve to shift us in the right direction. Gilliard covers this topic by exploring the five major pipelines:

1. The War on Drugs
2. The Crackdown on immigration offenses
3. Decreased funding for mental health
4. The privatization of prisons and detention centers
5. The School-to-prison pipeline

He exposes each pipeline as being “built on a legacy of racist and classist legislation.” Citing those legislations, the context and the long-term consequences, and I found it pretty convincing.

He also considers the evolution of the doctrine of penal substitution and how he believes it feeds into the problem of what is seen as a just punishment. Regardless of one’s view, he pushes for a restorative and redemptive approach to incarceration.

Gilliard not only provides solutions, but also successful stories of people who have implemented them. Though he challenges the church to lead the way into reforming these broken systems, he also provides a balanced perspective saying, “no church can do everything, but we must all do something.”

I highly recommend it.
Profile Image for Jo.
73 reviews
April 20, 2022
I highly recommend you read the New Jim Crow and Just Mercy before picking up this book. DuBois Gillard references both works quite regularly throughout this book and it was helpful to have that background. The author spends the first half of the book talking through the industrial prison complex in America and the problems of how we got here (though not in a repetitive way to Alexander's New Jim Crow, which I appreciate). The second half of the book is the place of the church and some actionable next steps. I am advocating others who are a part of the church to read this book and understand our Christian duty to tear down the monstrosity that is the very broken American Prison system.
Profile Image for Melody Hession-Sigmon.
60 reviews1 follower
September 2, 2020
Helpful, broad view of mass incarceration as of 2017. Builds on Michelle Alexander's work and is in conversation with both Bryan Stevenson and T. Richard Snyder's "The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Punishment." Provides pastors with tools to start conversations around mass incarceration grounded in examinations of well-known theological concepts many already teach in churches.
Profile Image for Allison.
1,048 reviews24 followers
October 24, 2021
This book’s goal is to challenge Christians toward restorative justice. I’m wholly onboard, though I’m not sure about the book’s accessibility (though that may be the impact of the audiobook narrator). The discussion of atonement theories was interesting, and I didn’t listen slowly to grasp it all - and ultimately think a different/separate volume would be needed to explore.
Profile Image for Heather Caliri.
Author 5 books24 followers
May 21, 2018
A brilliant, convicting book. Besides the extensive, heartbreaking research, and the hopeful, mind-boggling vision of restorative justice, I was most struck by the idea that Biblically, “righteousness” is always about whole RELATIONSHIPS. That’s a much more fruitful, whole, and interesting paradigm than our typical, individualistic goodness. Gilliard's book gave me much to think about--not only about criminal justice, but about my theology, passiveness, and our collective blindness. An urgent read for a nation that desperately needs shalom, not just punishment.
Profile Image for Moses Gunaratnam.
95 reviews1 follower
July 12, 2021
Man out here spitting some crazy facts on every page. I learned a ton reading this book and it has reshaped some of my perspectives while also giving me much to pray about. We’ve strayed so far.
Profile Image for Katie Boland.
533 reviews2 followers
June 12, 2018
Makes me so sad that the church has played the role that it has in mass incarceration but this book gives a hopeful look to how we can repent and change.
Profile Image for Aimee.
61 reviews
June 12, 2018
I read this book with a discussion group and I’m grateful because this is a book that is so meaty and so lens shifting that having people to process with is so helpful. Part expose’ and part theological treatise, Dominique opens wide the issue of Mass Incarceration so that you can no longer sit quietly and accept the status quo as a believer in Christ. I have met the author and he is wise, genuine and practicing what he preaches. Required reading.
Profile Image for Amy.
16 reviews2 followers
December 7, 2021
Incredibly informative and important book covering the church and mass incarceration. I did wish the author shared more of his own experiences working with incarcerated populations and that generally there would be more storytelling. Felt pretty academic and at times overly reliant on quotes from other experts in this topic.
Profile Image for Luke Hillier.
341 reviews21 followers
October 29, 2019
Gilliard offers a distinctly Christian addition to the ongoing and evolving conversation around mass incarceration. He builds extensively (and at times, borrows) from the foundational work of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness and Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, however this is mostly as he creates his opening argument; as the book goes on, his own voice and unique scholarly week becomes more evident and gets to shine through. While it's always evident that this book is in conversation with those before it, I think Gillard largely uses that to his advantage and to the readers service by filling in the gaps left behind. More specifically, his discussion around the under-explored streams towards mass incarceration (mental health, private prisons, immigration, and the school-to-prison pipeline) all cover critical areas of research that are important to further fleshing out our collective understanding of the dilemma at hand.

I personally found chapters 6 and 7 to bog down the reading a bit, and while I know I have a bias against more history-heavy research, I do think there were times where the anecdotes and arguments felt a bit overdone and detached from his larger trajectory. Thankfully, I think the best parts of the book come right after, which made the final third of the book the best part for me. This is where Gillard dives into the theological and exegetical arguments, which both feel more distinctly his own and also unique among the field he's contributing to. I was surprised and enthused to see his engagement around the interrelatedness of atonement theologies, namely the penal substitution theory, and America's collective ideology around crime and punishment. I've read critiques of PSA from other lenses before, but had never considered the ways it could yield that kind of systemic fruit. For the most part, I thought his engagement around that was careful and considerate but ultimately compelling as another angle of the problematic implications of that interpretation. I would have loved to see a more robust exploration of alternative he poses at the Christological level, but I can see how the focus of the book lends it to fit better in the more practical discussions around restorative justice that followed.

I think he does an excellent job in this final section at portraying the mentalities and attitudes of mainstream Christianity in America underneath the surface, exposing the ways much of it endorses meritocratic, punitive, and exclusionary ideologies and practices at odds with our faith. However, I really appreciated the ways he continued to keep theology at the center of his arguments, rather than just having one chapter on it and moving forward. It offered a really powerful expression of both what is possible as a Christian response to crime (recontextualized here as the breaking of relationship, or shalom) and critique of the ways most modern Christians think of it devoid of integration with their own theologies of grace, mercy, or restorative justice. Again, I would have appreciated the proposed alternative to be even more deeply fleshed out, but I know there are limitations to the scope of the book and imagine Gillard's primary goal was pricking the conscience of his audience rather than offering a perfect solution. With that in mind, I think he accomplished what he set out to do!
Profile Image for Jade.
375 reviews22 followers
March 5, 2018
Rethinking Incarceration by Dominique DuBois Gilliard takes a good, hard look at the history of US incarceration policies, the pipelines that lead towards incarceration (think war on drugs, zero tolerance policies in schools, systemic and institutionalized racism, discrimination, harsh immigration policies etc), and the involvement in the church within not only the history of US incarceration but also in today’s reality of terrible mass incarceration. Dominique DuBois Gilliard gives us a deeply researched, no holds barred book on how the US justice system has completely failed entire portions of the population, that it is an unfair and biased system based on profit and retribution rather than restoration, and how the church has not a good enough job in helping to fix this broken system. He then goes on to provide several solutions for the church to use that will help change the status quo and help rectify a system that otherwise will not get any better.

I’m not personally religious at all, but I was drawn to this book because, just like the title states, we need to completely rethink incarceration and look at all the options that we can to create positive change in all areas, whether it be in how we punish crime, misdemeanors and felonies, or how, as a society, we can help those who have served time to actually be given the chance to come back as humans rather than as “people who have served time”. Dominique DuBois Gilliard does a great job really digging deep down into all of the different issues that have caused today’s mass incarceration numbers, and the often times horrific conditions in which people are forced to live. The numbers don’t lie, systemic racism and archaic rules favor rich, white people when it comes to punishment for crimes committed and Dominique DuBois Gilliard uses his position as church leader to look into where the church has failed those who most needed it, and more importantly where the church can change and provide much needed restoration.

While the main thesis is based on the church’s role in incarceration and restoration, Rethinking Incarceration is in my opinion a must-read for all, not just for Christians and theologists. Whether you are religious or not it provides some great insight into how there are so many ways we can all work together to fix this system before it breaks even further.

Rethinking Incarceration was published in February 2018 by InterVarsity Press. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the copy!
Profile Image for Jodie Pine.
234 reviews5 followers
January 29, 2021
Excellent, eye-opening, well-researched book that inspires action. I highly recommend it! Gilliard writes, "I have spent the last fifteen years doing ministry in communities ravaged by mass incarceration, and the last decade working with people directly affected by incarceration. I have worked with juveniles, young adults, and adults trapped in the system, and have walked alongside and ministered to families adjusting to life without their loved ones. I have ministered to individuals in jails, prisons, and detention centers, and to those who are trying to reintegrate into society on the completion of their time behind bars. As I have become more proximate to the torment, injustice, and hopelessness our system breeds, I am haunted by the multitudes behind bars who are concretely affected by the church's support of punitive policies. I am also heartbroken by the church's complacency, all of which undergird mass incarceration." "We serve a God whose final word is not retribution but restoration, who desires liberation, reconciliation, and reintegration for those behind bars. God invites the church to participate in setting the captives free, spiritually liberating them and emancipating them from a depraved system that defaces the imago Dei."
Profile Image for Amanda.
437 reviews9 followers
September 24, 2018
This book was majorly impactful. As a person who hasn't had someone close to me or even that I know go to jail, my eyes were opened to a completely different story of what's happening in some neighborhoods and communities. It's one of the only books on this subject that I've read, so I can't really compare it to others, but this was a fantastic book on the history of incarceration in the US, the pipeline to prison, and how the church needs to take a stand for justice that is restorative not just punitive. I felt like it had a lot of facts, so it was a little slower of a read, but it was so impactful, I had to keep going.
The only reason I don't give it 5 stars is because I wish it had some resources or more suggestions on how an ordinary person can start to assist with this in their community.
Profile Image for Tiffany.
125 reviews
April 5, 2019
Eye opening and thought provoking for sure. The author is a compelling speaker, and he really amazed me when he spoke at our church last year. I wish he had a better editor for his book. Some ideas seemed too flushed out and others underdeveloped. Love the focus on restorative practices. I would have liked to see him dig into some of the more difficult ideas. Sure we can all get around not jailing a mom who sold drugs to buy food for her kids. But, what about looking at a murderer who shows no remorse. How do we, as Christians, work to approach that situation restoratively? These things said, I made a ton of notes and I’m sure this book has impressed its ideas on my heart.
Profile Image for Ruth.
Author 15 books185 followers
March 29, 2018
I went into this one already fairly convinced of some major flaws and shortcomings in the American justice system; this book provided further documentation and also good theological underpinnings for pursuing a new way forward. I would have preferred even more concrete examples of restorative justice and a stronger CTA at the end (since books like this generally leave me feeling, "But what do I *do* about it?") but I suppose I can do some investigation myself. (Note: Homeboy Industries sounds amazing. I'm off to Google it.)
Profile Image for Kalimorgan.
89 reviews2 followers
April 3, 2020
The first half is a little repetitive if you've already read Michelle Alexander and Bryan Stevenson, but in the second half I learned a lot about the early history of the American criminal justice system, historical protestant responses to the criminal justice system, prison chaplains and prison ministries. I'm also re-reading the chapter on atonement theory and how it relates to our approaches to justice.
2 reviews
July 23, 2018
A Doctoral Thesis?

This seemed more like something written to complete a degree than a fair look at our justice system. Plenty of researched facts, but very little balance.
Profile Image for Adam Shields.
1,658 reviews87 followers
March 26, 2019
Short thoughts: This is a book well worth reading. I think the main problem of it is that it is trying to do too much. There is 199 pages of main content and in that, he tries to have shortened version of New Jim Crow, trace the (mixed bag) line of Christian reform movements within prison, make a theological argument for restorative model over retributive model and convince people that systematic racism is a part of the whole history of the criminal justice system.

I glanced around at negative reviews last night and many of them seem to focus on a couple areas. 1) Gilliard takes aim at Penal Substitutionary Atonement (PSA) theory. I think he make a good point at why he is targeting PSA, but I think he also falls into the trap that many PSA proponents have of thinking of atonement theories as the actual work of Christ's death and resurrection instead of metaphors and mental maps of what is going on. I think if he had kept a tighter focus on PSA as one of many facets of the atonement, he could have pointed out the way that PSA lends itself toward punishment and God as judge metaphors and how that influences how we think of criminal justice system theologically. I also think he would benefit from interacting with Fleming Rutledge's book Cruxifixction. She does not dismiss PSA as a model but believes that it is over emphasized and her corrective without dismissal would be a helpful model.

I also think he would do better to cite more people. As helpful as I think Michelle Alexander and Bridgemon and Marshall were to his project, over dependence on them I think limited some perspective. Others also think similar things and citing more people would help the book by rounding it out more.

Where I think Gillard shines is his work at illustrating justice, not just punishment as the focus. There were some negative reviews that dealt with this, but mostly they showed that they do not understand was the purpose of restorative justice is. There are some that seem to believe that restorative justice is about removing pain or punishment from the process. But the point isn't to make things easier for the criminal. It is to restore right relationship and community trust to the community as a whole. The Black Lives Matters movement has taken off in large part because there is no trust that justice is a real goal.

When I read reviews that take individual stats and argue with them as a means of trying to dismiss racism as a whole, it really does show me how far we as a society have to go to understand the real harm of racism.

Criminal Justice is just one area, but it is one area where the focus on individualism instead of community really matters. Evangelicals that are individually focused and not communally focussed will continue to miss God's mission and minimize the role of justice in the life of Christians.

My slightly longer review is on my blog at http://bookwi.se/rethinking-incarcera...
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