Still Doing Life: 22 Lifers, 25 Years Later

New Pr. Mar. 2022. 176p. ISBN 9781620976487. $29.99. CRIME
Zehr (restorative justice, Eastern Mennonite Univ.) and Toews (criminal justice, Univ. of Washington, Tacoma) update Zehr’s 1996 work Doing Life, which compiled photographs of 22 men and women serving life sentences, without the possibility of parole, in Pennsylvania prisons. This new work features portrait of the individuals in the early 1990s alongside a photo of them from 2017, as well as the original and updated interviews. The book depicts people who have been convicted of violent acts, but Zehr and Toews individualize their subjects, encourage readers to feel a sense of connection to them, and advocate against life sentences. Zehr’s images are striking. Though some of these people have been incarcerated for upwards of 50 years, their smiles are genuine. The accounts are stirring, including that of Bruce Norris; though the Board of Pardons had recommended that his sentence be commuted, in 2021 he died of COVID-19 while still incarcerated. The book depicts both white people and people of color, and in a closing essay, Toews explores race, trauma, and mass incarceration.
VERDICT An unflinching look at some of the most marginalized members of society. Those who appreciated Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption or Zehr’s and Toew’s other books on restorative justice will be eager to read this heartfelt work.
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