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Until We Reckon: Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair

4.46  ·  Rating details ·  435 ratings  ·  84 reviews
In the eloquent tradition of Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, an award-winning leader in the movement to end mass incarceration takes on the vexing problem of violent crime

Although over half the people incarcerated in America today have committed violent offenses, the focus of reformers has been almost entirely on nonviolent and drug offenses. Danielle Sered’s brilliant and g
Hardcover, 305 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by The New Press
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Lucy Dacus
Nov 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great intro resource about reshaping America’s reliance on punishment. It doesn’t get into abolition as much as I expected it to, but the scope of the book has to do with violence and mass incarceration as related but different issues. Points that really hit home were how incarceration fails at every level (doesn’t foster healing, make people safer, isn’t cost effective, etc), that accountability infrastructure is possible and effective, and how change will have to happen within culture before i ...more
Mar 29, 2019 marked it as need-to-check-out-again
If you are interested in social justice regarding mass incarceration, you must read this book! The Director of Common Justice Danielle Sered eloquently explains our need to find restorative alternatives to mass incarceration for violent offenders in the interest of victims/survivors, offenders, communities and all of us. The arguments were so powerful that I had to stop reading and ruminate about them to integrate the ideas into my thinking. Highly recommend!

Thanks to NetGalley, The New Press, a
Jul 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: masters
EVERYONE should read this book. Trying to figure out how to get your skeptical friends/families to be abolitionists? Read this. Don't consider yourself a prison abolitionist? Read this. Suffering from white guilt and don't know what to do with it? Read this. A crime survivor who is weary about prison abolition? Read this. A law student? Read this. An American? Read this. Everyone should read this. ...more
I think this would make a really great follow-up read to Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. Sered makes a compelling argument for steering our criminal justice system toward restorative justice principles and away from an over-reliance on incarceration, using both quantitative data and anecdotal evidence to prove her point. It's a resounding answer to the dreadful "why should we care about addressing people's trauma?" question that seems to permeate traditional discourse on criminal ...more
Apr 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
I hate to give this only two stars but I can't honestly say I liked it. It's an extremely worthwhile topic and Sered is doing great work with Common Justice, her foundation that works to change the current prison system. However, the book itself is too pie-in-the-sky for me. After detailing just how incredibly horrible & miserable the current judicial & prison system is, she proceeds in the second half of the book to list what we "should" do to fix it, without once explaining how on earth all th ...more
Cal Barnett-Mayotte
Sered makes the most compelling and thoughtful case for a path forward, for both interpersonal and state violence, both individual and societal justice. Remarkably thorough and oozes wisdom.
Lori Green
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Another very important read.
Hannah Sotnick
Apr 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book should be required reading for everyone everywhere! Incredibly written distillation of what it means to hold ourselves accountable and work to recognize and heal individual and community trauma.
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
An excellent collection of case studies and well-defined theses on white society's obligation to face its obsession with violence and punishment and start putting effort into healing and community building at all levels from school suspensions to incarceration for violent offenses. ...more
Christopher Hudson Jr.
Aug 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: criminal-justice
People familiar with the uncomfortable details of mass incarceration know that meaningful reform in the US will require us to reevaluate how we respond specifically to violent crime. Because incarceration is the default in our criminal justice system, it can be difficult for people to conceptualize any realistic alternatives, especially for perpetrators of serious violence. Until We Reckon bravely tackles this question head on. Instead of punishment for punishment’s sake, author Danielle Sered p ...more
Renny Thomas
Mar 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was a but slow at first but you needed the base of understanding the relationships between the harmed and those who harm to understand how effective reformative justice can be. I wish there were more anecdotes about some of the people who have gone through common justice
Jake Cooper
The 1st half, on the origins of American violence and the failures of the US prison system, is fabulous*. The 2nd half, on how to move forward, is vague to the point of vacuity. Defining a problem is so much easier than proposing a solution.

* What I took from the 1st half: Violence is often a reaction to the shame of powerlessness and the denial of pain. Powerlessness and brutish non-pain are embedded in the American myths of (a) colonial manifest destiny in a backdrop of white supremacy, and (b
Heather KD
Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
While I have the highest regard for Michelle Alexander and her ground-breaking book of 2010, "The New Jim Crow", Danielle Sered's work takes the conversation about race and mass incarceration to another level. Sered makes necessary connections between the criminal justice system in the United States and the wider culture of violence--and her clear analysis enables her to propose real solutions to violence on both an interpersonal and system level. Plus, Sered's entire argument begins and ends wi ...more
Nadav David
May 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant book that uncovers the ways our society's obsession with locking people in cages, especially POC, poor and trans/GNC folks, destroys our ability to face and heal from harm that occurs in our communities. Sered provides a powerful framework and narratives to speak to the power of restorative and transformative justice practices, and is especially focused on violent crimes, which feels missing in so much of the liberal/moderate conversations about mass incarceration. So many nuggets of ...more
Natsumi Paxton
I would recommend this for progressives who are invested in reducing prison populations but take for granted that imprisonment is the best response to violence. Sered's analysis of how imprisonment effects individuals and communities, and her anecdotes of Common Justice clients shows how policing and imprisonment reproduce violence, rather than counter it.

It's not abolitionist, Sered upholds the value of incapacitation and of the state overall. This book is not an analysis of prison's function a
Dec 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Important for the 2020 election

Read this before considering your vote. This book helps me move through fear and into action. Will read it again.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just read this, please.
Michael-David Sasson
Dec 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This might be the most important book I read in 2020. I can't recommend it highly enough. ...more
Feb 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The conversation around criminal justice reform a lot of the time stops at low level, non-violent and drug offenses. But to stop mass incarceration and dismantle the current prison system, we have to go beyond that and look at ways to deal with ALL crime differently than by incarceration. This book is a fantastic study in how to do just that.

Highly recommended reading for everyone who wants to have a fair & truly accountable justice system. Also recommended for anyone who thinks prisons mean ac
Libby O'Neill
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A VERY compelling read about the need for restorative justice and the problem of mass incarceration. This book was very accessible and an important read about a serious problem in the US.
Megan Henry
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was amazing. Using research and data, as well as examples of successful initiatives such as that of Common Justice, Sered paints a picture of survivor-led, community-driven, restorative justice alternatives to mass incarceration and our punitive system of justice. She outlines how these alternatives foster safety and healing in a way our criminal justice system never has. She talks about structural and individual conditions that drive violence and then outlines how mass incarceration a ...more
Winston Plum
May 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a spectacular book. This is a brave book. I strongly recommend it to anyone who would like to know more about the horror of mass incarceration, the stupidity and blindspots of the American criminal justice system, and the systemic racism that undergirds both.

During the first part of the book, Danielle Sered walks the reader through the specifics of the restorative justice process (she has been the executive director of Common Justice in Brooklyn for ten years). What makes the final thir
Troy Mattila
Jul 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: law
Many good ideas and answers to the question of what we do without prisons, or at least in a world where incarceration is a last resort. Interesting stories of healing, growth, and restoration, and a hopeful vision of a future that cares about all victims, even those responsible for harming others. It's hard to disagree with Sered's general argument that our current system is both irrational and ultimately harmful to everyone.

That said, the book probably has a few too many unsupported claims. Mos
Sep 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The recent spate of police killings of Black citizens, and the resulting massive social protests, have highlighted an urgent need for reform in our criminal justice system. There are, of course, many different facets to this: reconceptualizing the roles of police and prosecutors, reviewing sentencing guidelines, and drastically reducing incarceration rates, to name just a few. Author Danielle Sered, founder of Common Justice, touches on all of these, but her primary focus is on a process that pr ...more
Jan 02, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The vast majority of sexual abuse survivors never receive anything resembling justice. Ever. My concern about those who promote "restorative justice" for sexual violence is that their moral vanity takes precedence over the feelings and safety of abuse survivors. The Catholic Church practiced "restorative justice" with priests while their victims were told to "forgive" & forget. Most churches claim the moral "high ground" when they "forgive" rapists and child molesters in their ranks. There is no ...more
David Kraus
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Just a wonderful, revolutionary book. It will change the way you think about violence and the penal-carceral arm of the state. Plus it’s exquisitely written.
The Bean of
I started out loving this book. Sared's passion was palpable in each sentence. The beginning laid bare the myriad problems with our criminal justice system (5% but 25%; 95% plea bargain etc.) She posed some interesting philosophical questions regarding punishment: who is it for? why do we punish? what even is punishment? why is incarceration our weapon of choice? She then systematically dismantles the whole logic of (mass) incarceration: it alienates the victim from the process, drowning them in ...more
Danielle Sered served for ten years as the Director of Common Justice, an organization in NYC that provides alternatives to incarceration and victim services for serious and violent felonies. Drawing on her experience, she opens the book by claiming that the U.S. will never solve its problem with violence through incarceration. In fact she claims and then shows that there is a positive correlation between the rise in mass incarceration and the rise of violent crime. Moreover, the causes of crime ...more
Apr 27, 2019 rated it liked it
First of all, thank you to the publisher for the free copy. This will be a little hard to review. On one, hand, the ideas contained are great. But then again, it was pretty dry and hard to complete. The basic idea of this book and of restorative justice in general is pretty much what I was taught in church as a kid about when you sin; tell the truth about your actions, face your victim, and pay restitution. Admittedly, most of the people I went to church with as a kid are more interested in bloo ...more
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: blm
I read this book because Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, recommended it in a Jan 17, 2020 New Yorker interview entitled "Ten Years After 'The New Jim Crow'."

Sered's work challenges the conventional myth of how people come to commit acts of violence, a story that emerges from looking at arrest records and seeing people commit more violent crimes over time, leading to the formation of an ever more "hardened criminal."

Instead, Sered
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