Cover Image: Still Doing Life

Still Doing Life

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Member Reviews

Still Doing Life has an interesting premise. It includes the profiles of 22 people sentenced to Life in prison. Included are pictures and essays taken 25 years apart. This allows for the reader to get to know these "lifers" as individuals who have a variety of factors that have impacted the decisions they have made in their lives. A nice touch was the summary at the end of different factors that were seen commonly amongst the individuals profiled in this book - trauma, radicalized trauma, poverty, etc. I think books like this are so important to ensure that when we are making decisions in society about how to handle those that cause harm to others we are seeing the many factors that feed into the choice to do so so we can best address and rehabilitate.
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Still Doing Life follows a project that has taken place within 25 years.  The individuals interviewed in this book are doing a life sentence and it shows them as they were and how they are now, what has changed, what has remained the same, and how they are continuing to have hope, although not all of them from the first project are in Still Doing Life and some have moved on.  Still Doing Life humanizes individuals that are incarcerated, how they are continuing to survive, some discuss their forgiveness from the victim's families, the hurt that passes from a victim down to families 25 years after the fact, and how extreme the law can be and how some states should revise and some governors have revised the law in some cases.  It is an interesting read by Howard Zehr and Barb Toews that will impact your life and support others around us because everyone is on a journey and people can change and better themselves.
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This should be required reading in all Criminal Justice classes, in law school, and for all District Attorneys.

Moving and powerful. The photographs showing each individual as they looked 25 years ago juxtaposed with the most current photos during the writing of this book is heartbreaking. So many years that have passed... so many changes in the way they thought and felt. Some of them had died or were released prior to the book's publication; I liked knowing updates about them.

This is heavy and thought provoking. I have worked in the criminal justice system for almost 15 years, and I will say this: I definitely do not agree with some of the views expressed in this book, but I respect them.

I feel empathy for these convicts, but I also have great sorrow and deep feelings about their victims, the people whose lives that were brutally taken. Some of those interviewed for this project expressed their remorse and talked about the families of their victims. Others did not.

I don't know. It's so hard on everyone. That's why this book is valuable - it makes you THINK and ask yourself the hard questions. We need more of that today.
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Such an enlightening read. I’ll be honest I never even thought about these people doing life. The book talks to these people and doesn’t focus on their crimes. They focus on their humanity. It really made me rethink my throw away the key mentality.
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"What's most frightening about a life sentence is knowing I've acquired the capabilities and the knowledge to be somebody, to be a productive citizen… but I'm not able to get out and help." – Commer Glass.

You sit down and sometimes think about these things. If you're lucky, it doesn't cross your mind, but it can appear on the television, on the news, and you may think about what it is like to go to prison. There are jokes on sitcoms and gags, but people live confined from the prime of their life to the end without hope of doing more.
This book introduced many new ideas about life sentences, bringing them into perspective. I've read around this issue, of the school to prison pipeline for black boys, of gentrified neighborhoods patrolled by cops who are quick with an arrest but seeing it humanized is different than watching how it plays out. 
This is the result of the arrest. There is no humanizing the crime; there is no stone to throw, just the words of people contemplating the chances at a new life. There are various stories, each diverse from page to page painting change from the first interview in the early 1990s to 2017. The pictures accompanied by each piece are something I enjoyed more than the writing, as it humanized these people who understood their wrings, made mistakes, got caught up, and got locked up.
	There is a common theme amongst them, one of righting wrongs, understanding how this reformation system works against them, and the hope they carry for freedom. You would see someone's hope win out very few and far between, which can seem very heartening. However, more often than not, we met them again in 2017, some still hoping, and some passed on.
	The candid interviews say a lot about each individual, painting the dynamics of their personal experience. The change in generational morals, how the system works between male and female inmates, and how each finds and continues to follow their hope. This is a piece about humanization. It deems unworthy about second chances and the ability for the system to reform itself to do what it said it would and provide rehabilitation for those. It is about asking for forgiveness and repenting by giving back and understanding, and I was made all the better for getting the ability to read this.
  The question here is; when do we forgive, and what is it means to rehabilitate?
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Such a thought provoking book and I really enjoyed reading about the people behind the pictures. Worth the read and I will pick up when I can I buy it.
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Still Doing Life: 22 Lifers, 25 Years Later is a raw, thought-provoking, and enlightening read. For each of the 22 prisoners sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole (which include women and men), we see a picture taken in the 1990s and read an essay they wrote at that time. This is immediately followed by a picture taken of the same person in the same pose and another essay written 25 years later (2017).

It was really interesting to hear their stories, thoughts, and emotions from the two different time periods. Some struggle to find hope and meaning in life; others have a positive outlook from the beginning and look for ways to contribute to their community. Some still play the victim but the majority of them have taken responsibility for their actions and have tried to grow as a person as much as is possible within the confines given them.

This is a difficult book to read. It is impossible not to be affected by some of the things written:

"What a guy's in jail for probably only took a few seconds. That's not the whole person. That's just a couple of minutes out of the person's life. There are more dimensions to that person."

"I am not my crime."

"I've learned that no matter where you are, what you do, who you are, or who you think you are, you always have to give back."

"Everything we do has a purpose."

The justice system is undoubtedly flawed, and there are no easy answers.

I really appreciate the opportunity to read this book and learn from it. My thanks to The New Press for permitting me access to an e-ARC of this book (which is scheduled to be published 3/15/22) via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and are freely given.
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A book that really makes you think. This book is about keeping an open dialogue and while I don’t agree with all the points presented, I definitely support the way in which they are presented. I like that the authors ask questions that make you think rather than forcing their beliefs on you, and they admit that those who have not changed for the better are underrepresented in this book. 

The lifers talk about hard prison is, about faith and spirituality, and what they’ve learned or what they do. Many of them talk about regret and remorse but several do not. One woman said when her son died it finally hit her what the victim’s families went through. A man watching someone in prison die the way he’d killed someone and the haunting look of the person dying finally made him see the reality of what he did. I truly believe many of these prisoners still have not reached that realization or level of self-awareness. I don’t argue that they’ve changed, but the reason they’re lives have been so hard to live is because they took the lives of others. Those people didn’t even get a chance to continue. 

Could these people be better contributors to society by joining civilian life again and teaching others that actions have consequences? Would it be enough? Maybe... Many of them talk about the new generation coming into prison and how hardened and self-righteous they are. Is it the new generation or is that the way these lifers were too before they had all these years to reflect?
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This is obviously a heavy, complicated topic, but this book is easy to read and very thought-provoking.   The overall tone is hopeful and optimistic about human nature and our ability to grow and find meaning in life.   The photography is excellent and the participants' words are thoughtful, philosophical, and profound.

It looks like it was left up to the participants whether to talk about their offenses/convictions, and I think that's a good choice.   It makes it easier for the reader to keep an open mind and see a more complete picture of a human who is just as complex and nuanced as anyone.    Reading it from a neutral outside perspective, I'm inclined to be sympathetic and supportive of both changes to sentencing guidelines and increased resources and opportunities for people who are incarcerated.   Perhaps I'd feel differently if I'd been directly affected by violent crime.   Still, I think there is a strong case to rethink our approach to sentencing and justice and this is a worthwhile read as part of that reckoning.   

Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review!
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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC!
What a thought-provoking, emotional and difficult book. I had to read much of the book in short segments as it can feel heart-wrenching and heavy when handling too many stories at once. An eye-opening beacon of humanity, restorative justice and strength.
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Still Doing Life was a photo book which told the stories of lifers. Interviews taken 20 years apart helped the reader digest the true realities of what a life in prison is like. I couldn’t stop reading. Interview after interview, I just genuinely couldn’t stop reading. I’m so thankful to an author who put in the work to show the realities of the American justice system. Weather you are for “death by incarceration” or not, this book is worth the read.
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Still Doing Life is one of those books where the impact on the reader is greater than the pleasure of the reading. I had to read it in short sittings so I wouldn't be overwhelmed but also so I could think about my own ideas and viewpoints.

I have long been an advocate of restorative justice, though the specific practical changes that have to be made have always made me wonder how we make the first steps so that we can then continue. In other words, my knowledge has lagged far behind my approval of the idea. Like so many people, regardless of where they stand on our "justice" system, there is a tendency to forget that we are talking about people, fellow human beings. They are not just numbers, they are not just whatever crime they committed. They may have done something that we consider worse than anything we have done, but what is more important isn't some hierarchy of wrongs but how we deal with the situations after wrongs are done. I don't want my entire life to be judged by the worst act I ever committed. I believe that is true of most of us. We should find ways to treat people who commit crimes in a similar manner. A productive member of society is far preferrable to locking someone away for life. If a solution short of that can be found we owe it not just to them but to our society to find and implement that solution.

This book shows in very clear terms the humanity of many of these lifers, the ways they have changed and the ways they have been prevented from changing. If you care about humanity, whether as a humanist or an "everyone is a child of God" variety, you can't think it is okay to lock these people up without a chance at living and contributing to society. Unless, of course, you are just paying lip service to whatever ethical or moral system you pretend to follow.

Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.
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What a very interesting book!  Rarely can we get a glimpse like this behind the walls of a prison.  I enjoyed getting a different perspective.
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This book takes an empathetic approach and gives bite size approaches and allows you to have kindness and patience with yourself when dealing with life. This is so necessary for everyone to read in life. Highly recommend. Especially loved the reflection for how the person went into prison and where they were now. Very heartbreaking at points but still was a good reflection on the positive side of prison reform.  I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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I received an arc of this title from NetGalley for an honest review. This book was haunting and hard to read. Stories of people who are doing life, many w/o parole in our prison systems. I found it fascinating that each has a similar thought over the years as they aged. What a project.
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Very interesting. Reading the stories was a bit heart breaking but enlightening as well. 
Thanks to author publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book. While I bit the book for free, it had no bearing on the rating I gave it.
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This was an interesting book unlike any I have read before. I liked the photo comparisons and enjoyed reading what they wrote in the 1990s and especially compared to today, seeing the growth they all had. The concept was intriguing to me as this is a side of society that doesn’t seem to get a lot of airtime, it feels like we head about the bad things the lifers had done and that’s it, throw away the key and forget they ever existed. I would like to read more books about other parts of society that are also relatively untapped.
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