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Don't Go into the New Year Stupid

I just used the title above to lure you into reading this article. It worked because here you are, reading this article. The real title is “May Your New Year Overflow with Newness.” Not quite as captivating. Anyway . . . I am a huge proponent of the idea that it is never too late to change. I staunchly believe that NOW is always the best time to do whatever it is you were created to do. It doesn’t matter how old you are. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been doing the thing that you’re currently doing. It doesn’t matter how many setbacks you’ve had in the past. And it most definitely doesn’t matter what other people think or what they have to say. It just doesn’t matter. For that reason, I love love love the start of a new year or a new week or a new day—whenever it is that you decide to do something new! Doing something new—whether it’s developing a new healthy lifestyle or exploring a new career path—always requires a new mindset. Before we act differently, we must first think differently. You can’t pour new wine into an old wineskin. Changing the way we think requires replacing antiquated ideas with new ones. That often means discarding the fallacies that were passed down to us either intentionally or ignorantly and acquiring a new lens through which to view the world. Change also demands courage. It takes courage to not only acknowledge that a long-held belief that may have been passed down to us by someone we esteem is wrong, it also takes courage to take the steps to do what is right. That’s not easy, but in order to do something new, it’s necessary. As we embark upon a new year, I want to share some resources that I hope challenge you to think differently in general and to think differently specifically as it pertains to our criminal justice system. If your life is as nonstop as mine, you have precious little time to read. Therefore, all of the books I recommend are available as audiobooks that you can download on your favorite device(s) and listen to whenever you have a moment

  • Mistakes Were Made but Not by Me: Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts (Caroll Tavris and Elliot Aronson). I ran across the title of this book in a footnote in my Evidence textbook while in law school. This thought-provoking book explores the mental acrobats that people, especially people in positions of power or authority, are often willing to do to justify wrong attitudes and wrong behavior.

  • Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson). The movie is good, but the book is better in examining the destructive nature of racial bias in the American criminal justice system.

  • American Poison (Eduardo Porter). I heard a segment on NPR about this book and purchased it immediately. This book analyzes how the tentacles of racial animus have insidiously infected nearly every institution crucial for a healthy society in the U.S.

  • Waiting for Superman (Davis Guggenheim). A poignant documentary on the dismal state of the American education system. We have to do better.

  • 13th (Ava Duvernay). Ava Duvernay is an incredible filmmaker (When They See Us, Selma). 13th stands out to me as her best work to date. There’s no way to watch this documentary and not acknowledge that the American criminal justice system is in desperate need of reform.

  • Zehr Institute. The Zehr Institute is a treasure trove of resources about restorative justice, including training resources.

  • Ted Talks. Only have a few minutes to spare for restorative justice? No problem! There are loads of Ted Talks online specifically about restorative justice. One of my favorites was delivered by Shannon Silva. Here’s the link: Happy 2021!!! May your New Year overflow with newness!!!

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