Recommended Reading


The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
By Michelle Alexander (The New Press, 2010)

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

Called “stunning” by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Levering Lewis, “invaluable” by theDaily Kos, “explosive” by Kirkus, and “profoundly necessary” by the Miami Herald, this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow, now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.

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Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs
by Johann Hari (Bloomsbury USA, 2015)

It is now one hundred years since drugs were first banned in the United States. On the eve of this centenary, journalist Johann Hari set off on an epic three-year, thirty-thousand-mile journey into the war on drugs. What he found is that more and more people all over the world have begun to recognize three startling truths: Drugs are not what we think they are. Addiction is not what we think it is. And the drug war has very different motives to the ones we have seen on our TV screens for so long.

Hari reveals his discoveries entirely through the stories of people across the world whose lives have been transformed by this war. It begins with Hari’s discovery that at the birth of the drug war, Billie Holiday was stalked and killed by the man who launched this crusade–and it ends with the story of a brave doctor who has led his country to decriminalize every drug, from cannabis to crack, with remarkable results.

Chasing the Scream lays bare what we really have been chasing in our century of drug war–in our hunger for drugs, and in our attempt to destroy them. This book will challenge and change how you think about one of the most controversial–and consequential–questions of our time.

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In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Encounters with Addiction
by Gabor Mate (North Atlantic Books, 2010)

Based on Gabor Mate’s two decades of experience as a medical doctor and his groundbreaking work with the severely addicted on Vancouver’s skid row, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts radically reenvisions this much misunderstood field by taking a holistic approach. Dr. Mate presents addiction not as a discrete phenomenon confined to an unfortunate or weak-willed few, but as a continuum that runs throughout (and perhaps underpins) our society; not a medical “condition” distinct from the lives it affects, rather the result of a complex interplay among personal history, emotional, and neurological development, brain chemistry, and the drugs (and behaviors) of addiction. Simplifying a wide array of brain and addiction research findings from around the globe, the book avoids glib self-help remedies, instead promoting a thorough and compassionate self-understanding as the first key to healing and wellness.

In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts argues persuasively against contemporary health, social, and criminal justice policies toward addiction and those impacted by it. The mix of personal stories—including the author’s candid discussion of his own “high-status” addictive tendencies—and science with positive solutions makes the book equally useful for lay readers and professionals.

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Fighting for Space: How a Group of Drug Users Transformed One City’s Struggle with Addiction
by Travis Lupick (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2018)

North America is in the grips of a drug epidemic; with the introduction of fentanyl, the chances of a fatal overdose are greater than ever, prompting many to rethink the war on drugs. Public opinion has slowly begun to turn against prohibition, and policy-makers are finally beginning to look at addiction as a health issue as opposed to one for the criminal justice system. Fighting for Space explains the concept of harm reduction as a crucial component of a city’s response to the drug crisis. It tells the story of a grassroots group of addicts in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who waged a political street fight for two decades to transform how the city treats its most marginalized citizens.

Over the past twenty-five years, this group of residents from Canada’s poorest neighborhood organized themselves in response to the growing number of overdose deaths and demanded that addicts be given the same rights as any other citizen; against all odds, they eventually won. But just as their battle came to an end, fentanyl arrived and opioid deaths across North America reached an all-time high. The “genocide” in Vancouver finally sparked government action. Twenty years later, as the same pattern plays out in other cities, there is much that advocates for reform can learn from Vancouver’s experience. Fighting for Space tells that story—including case studies in Ohio, Florida, New York, California, Massachusetts, and Washington state—with the same passionate fervor as the activists whose tireless work gave dignity to addicts and saved countless lives.

Read Clergy for a New Drug Policy’s Review of Fighting for Space

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Articles & Publications

Diminishing Capacity: The Heroin Crisis and Illinois Treatment in National Perspective
Illinois Consortium Drug Policy at Roosevelt University (2015)

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Marked for Life: Collateral Sanctions Associated with Marijuana Offenses in Illinois
Marijuana Policy Project (2013)

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A 25-Year Quagmire: The War on Drugs and Its Impact on American Society
The Sentencing Project, written by Marc Mauer and Ryan S. King (2007)

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No Entry: A National Survey of Criminal Justice Diversion Programs and Initiatives
The Center for Health and Justice at TASC (2013)

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War on Drugs: Report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy
Global Commission on Drug Policy (2011)

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Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work
Global Commission on Drug Policy (2014)

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America’s Changing Drug Policy Landscape
Pew Research Center (2014)

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Drug War Détente? A Review of State-Level Drug Law Reform, 2009-2013
Vera Institute of Justice, written by Ram Subramanian and Rebecka Moreno (2014)

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