SOCIAL SCIENCES

A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom

Crown. Sept. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781984825780. $28. SOC SCI
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Lawyer and activist Barnett weaves together memoir, biography, and legal drama in a powerful and moving story. Barnett describes her childhood in Texas in a close-knit community where crack was both an escape and a promise of easy money when jobs were otherwise hard to come by. When Barnett was a teenager, her mother experienced drug addiction and spent time in jail. Determined to seek a different life for herself, Barnett became a corporate lawyer, but increasingly devoted her free time to advocating for those serving life sentences for nonviolent drug crimes; casualties of the sentencing guidelines during the “war on drugs” in the 1980s and 1990s that disproportionately targeted African Americans and led to a significant increase in mass incarceration. Working against time and incredible odds, Barnett successfully secured clemency and freedom for several people, some of whom would join her in founding the Buried Alive project to seek criminal justice reform. These emotional stories are among the highlights of this book.
VERDICT Recommended for readers who enjoyed Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy, this is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the devastating effects of mandatory drug sentencing and looking for inspiration to seek change.

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