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A Knock at Midnight

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An inspiring true story about unwavering belief in humanity and an urgent call to free those buried alive by America's unjust legal system--from a gifted young lawyer whose journey marks the emergence of a powerful new voice in the movement to transform the system. Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever--t An inspiring true story about unwavering belief in humanity and an urgent call to free those buried alive by America's unjust legal system--from a gifted young lawyer whose journey marks the emergence of a powerful new voice in the movement to transform the system. Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever--that of Sharanda Jones, single mother, business owner and, like Brittany, black daughter of the rural South. A victim of America's ruthless and devastating war on drugs, Sharanda had been torn from the arms of her young daughter and was serving a life sentence without parole--all for a first-time drug offense. In Sharanda, Brittany saw haunting echoes of own life, both as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother and the one-time girlfriend of an abusive drug dealer. As she studied Sharanda's case, a system slowly came into focus: one where widespread racial injustice forms the core of our country's addiction to incarceration. Moved by Sharanda's plight, Brittany began to work towards her freedom. This had never been the plan. Bright and ambitious, Brittany was already a successful accountant with her sights set on a high-powered future in corporate law. But Sharanda's case opened the door to a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system, in which people could be locked up for life under misguided appeals for law and order. Driven by the realization that her clients' fates could have easily been her own, Brittany soon found herself on a quest to unlock the human potential of those our society has forgotten how to see. Living a double life, she moved billion dollar corporate deals by day, and by night worked pro bono to free Sharanda and others in near-impossible legal battles. Ultimately, her journey transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself. A Knock at Midnight is Brittany's riveting, inspirational memoir, at once a coming-of-age story and a powerful evocation of what it takes to bring hope and justice to a system built to resist both at every turn.


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An inspiring true story about unwavering belief in humanity and an urgent call to free those buried alive by America's unjust legal system--from a gifted young lawyer whose journey marks the emergence of a powerful new voice in the movement to transform the system. Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever--t An inspiring true story about unwavering belief in humanity and an urgent call to free those buried alive by America's unjust legal system--from a gifted young lawyer whose journey marks the emergence of a powerful new voice in the movement to transform the system. Brittany K. Barnett was only a law student when she came across the case that would change her life forever--that of Sharanda Jones, single mother, business owner and, like Brittany, black daughter of the rural South. A victim of America's ruthless and devastating war on drugs, Sharanda had been torn from the arms of her young daughter and was serving a life sentence without parole--all for a first-time drug offense. In Sharanda, Brittany saw haunting echoes of own life, both as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother and the one-time girlfriend of an abusive drug dealer. As she studied Sharanda's case, a system slowly came into focus: one where widespread racial injustice forms the core of our country's addiction to incarceration. Moved by Sharanda's plight, Brittany began to work towards her freedom. This had never been the plan. Bright and ambitious, Brittany was already a successful accountant with her sights set on a high-powered future in corporate law. But Sharanda's case opened the door to a harrowing journey through the criminal justice system, in which people could be locked up for life under misguided appeals for law and order. Driven by the realization that her clients' fates could have easily been her own, Brittany soon found herself on a quest to unlock the human potential of those our society has forgotten how to see. Living a double life, she moved billion dollar corporate deals by day, and by night worked pro bono to free Sharanda and others in near-impossible legal battles. Ultimately, her journey transformed her understanding of injustice in the courts, of genius languishing behind bars, and the very definition of freedom itself. A Knock at Midnight is Brittany's riveting, inspirational memoir, at once a coming-of-age story and a powerful evocation of what it takes to bring hope and justice to a system built to resist both at every turn.

30 review for A Knock at Midnight

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    "I began to wonder whether America’s harsh drug sentences were tied to the drugs in a man’s hands or the melanin in his skin." While Brittany K Barnett was in law school, she came across the story of Sharanda Jones, a woman serving a life sentence for "conspiracy" to distribute drugs. What first caught her attention was the number on a sticker on Sharanda's shirt: 1374671.  This had been Brittany's mother's prison number and hearing Sharanda's story changed the trajectory of her life. After this in "I began to wonder whether America’s harsh drug sentences were tied to the drugs in a man’s hands or the melanin in his skin." While Brittany K Barnett was in law school, she came across the story of Sharanda Jones, a woman serving a life sentence for "conspiracy" to distribute drugs. What first caught her attention was the number on a sticker on Sharanda's shirt: 1374671.  This had been Brittany's mother's prison number and hearing Sharanda's story changed the trajectory of her life. After this introduction, Ms. Barnett writes about her childhood, one that was happy until her mother became an addict. She tells the shame and loneliness she felt as her mother sank deep into the clutches of addiction, and the pain that engulfed her when her mother was cruelly wrenched further away by a judge sentencing her to ten years in jail for possession of crack cocaine.  In college, Brittany decided to change from finance to corporate law and began working her way up the ladder to financial success. However, when she saw Sharanda Jones and learned her story, she could not forget her and decided to do all she could to help free her. It was fascinating to read both of these women's stories, and to learn about the harsh mandatory sentencing for drugs, especially that of crack cocaine. Beginning with President Reagan, America's "war on drugs" did not win the drug war. Instead it made it worse, and in the process destroyed many, many lives.  As Ms. Barnett tells us, "Federal law adopted a 100-to-1 ratio, treating one gram of crack as equivalent to one hundred grams of powder cocaine for sentencing purposes". White people using and distributing powder cocaine received relatively light sentences, and poor Blacks who tended to use the crack form because it was cheaper were given sentences 100 times harsher.  This meant that the drug lords who were bringing tons (literally) of cocaine into the country received far shorter sentences than addicts in possession of a tiny amount of crack intended for their personal use.  Unfortunately, laws were also put into place that made it possible to convict people for "conspiracy to distribute" --without a shred of evidence. Once someone was caught, they could be given years off of their sentence for naming other people. It didn't matter who and it didn't matter that often there was no evidence except these people's word. Once accused, many found (and still find, no doubt) themselves locked up, sometimes for life.  It brings to mind the infamous witch trials. Because of these "conspiracy to distribute" sentences, Sharanda was given life in prison without possibility of parole, her 8-year old daughter left motherless. Even Sharanda's paraplegic mother was thrown into prison on these false charges for "running a drug house". A Knock at Midnight is a page turner. Ms. Barnett writes passionately and with deep compassion about Ms. Jones and others whose lives have been destroyed by America's "war on drugs". She shows how the law unfairly targets Black and Brown people while doing nothing to help addicts. Instead, as she notes, "We punish addiction in this country, treating it as a moral flaw instead of an illness. Prison does not bring redemption, and it does not cure or treat addiction." This is a remarkable book, one that sheds light on both America's drug problem and systemic racism. I highly recommend it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    TL

    I won this via goodreads giveaways, all my opinions are my own:). ***** Powerful and compelling, very hard to put down and I kept thinking about it each time I had to close the book for real life. It really brings to light some of the flaws in our system. I was sad/disgusted/shocked at how everything went down. I admire Brittany and the others for all they have done to help these people. I applaud Brittany for this wonderful book

  3. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Holmes

    I grew up with Perry Mason and Nancy Drew and wanted to be a lawyer who saved innocent people and solved crimes. While I didn’t become a lawyer, I did become an avid consumer of books about innocent people charged and often convicted of crimes. With this in mind, I asked for the prepublication version of A Knock at Midnight by Brittany Barnett. This book NEEDS to be read by everyone, especially people who are wondering why we would need to defund the police. Barnett introduces us to people charg I grew up with Perry Mason and Nancy Drew and wanted to be a lawyer who saved innocent people and solved crimes. While I didn’t become a lawyer, I did become an avid consumer of books about innocent people charged and often convicted of crimes. With this in mind, I asked for the prepublication version of A Knock at Midnight by Brittany Barnett. This book NEEDS to be read by everyone, especially people who are wondering why we would need to defund the police. Barnett introduces us to people charged by the federal prosecutors in drug crimes and sentenced to life in prison, several of them women and all of them are black. The real amount of the drugs was small or far in the distance. The prosecutors, often to the dismay of the judges, add multiple extra charges sometimes brought as a result of deals with other defendants. Barnett, whose mother had been in jail for drug probation violations, becomes a corporate lawyer, but finds her true calling working to free these people. Unlike death penalty cases, life without parole seldom has a good way to appeal. Clemency is often the only way to get help. Because these are federal crimes, that means the President has to grant clemency. Again, as with so many books in this “genre”, the way the inmates find strength to go on, whether it is from their faith or their family or their care for fellow inmates, gives us hope. This stands with Just Mercy, The Sun Does Shine, Actual Innocence, Picking Cotton, and Charged in adding to the dialogue. Thank you Edelweiss Plus and Crown/Random House.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Craig David

    I can't recommend this book enough. The timing of this book being released soon is a blessing. Brittany Barnett is a wonderful storyteller as she describes her work to assist Sharonda Jones in getting clemency which Barack Obama granted her. It explores the complex work of the criminal justice system and the infamous war on drugs. I really can't give this book enough praise. I will definitely be buying a copy when it is published.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Barbara (The Bibliophage)

    Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com. Brittany K. Barnett tells a series of moving and disturbing stories in her new memoir, A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom. If you read social justice books like The New Jim Crow or Locking Up Our Own, you must get your hands on a copy of this book! Its publication date is Tuesday, September 8, 2020. The reason to read this is primarily the emotions it stirs. My heart pinged back and forth between anger, sadness, elat Originally published on my book blog, TheBibliophage.com. Brittany K. Barnett tells a series of moving and disturbing stories in her new memoir, A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom. If you read social justice books like The New Jim Crow or Locking Up Our Own, you must get your hands on a copy of this book! Its publication date is Tuesday, September 8, 2020. The reason to read this is primarily the emotions it stirs. My heart pinged back and forth between anger, sadness, elation, and deep admiration. Barnett and her subjects are real-life American heroes. Barnett begins with her own life as a girl growing up in rural East Texas. Her mom falls into addiction, and Barnett and her sister shuffle between Mom’s, Dad’s, and grandparent’s homes. They struggle in every possible way. And the bottom drops out when her mom is caught up in a drug arrest and sent to jail. Barnett and her family are devastated emotionally. The story and memoir could have stopped here and been affecting. Instead, Barnett goes on to tell her story of graduating high school, college, graduate, and law school. She’s on a path and aiming to do more than just help support her family. She moves to Dallas and starts working in high-powered corporate law. Social Justice and the Legal System But she also takes a course in law school about the correlation between race and the law. Here’s where her passions and experiences take a side-step. And as Barnett explains her own learning process, we see the human side of America’s War on Drugs and mass incarceration. It’s not that she wasn’t familiar with drugs, dealing, and the decisions everyday Americans make. But connecting this direct knowledge to the legal system, especially mandatory sentencing guidelines, was life changing. As a result, Barnett begins to work on a pro bono basis with an incarcerated woman named Sharanda Jones. The portrait she paints of Sharanda hit me in the heart, as it did Barnett. And for this young lawyer, the similarities and differences to her mother’s experience meant even more. So, Barnett starts to look for legal ways to help Jones and maybe even get her out of prison. From here the book is more about Jones and various other clients. Each story is told with no sugar coating. Barnett aims to show all sides of the story—to be honest and complete. But most of all, she wants her readers to understand the human toll that each of these folks’ experiences. Also, each family has a story, and Barnett lets us into those as well. There are lots of legal details, including Presidential clemency options under both the Barack Obama and Donald Trump administrations. What seem like endless time passes while Barnett works on each person’s case. The options are limited, but she’s a creative legal mind who also learns to access great mentors. My conclusions Friends, just please read this book. I plowed through it in just a few days, because of both the stories themselves and Barnett’s storytelling abilities. Barnett takes us underneath the statistics and the 30-second news spots. She opens her own heart and connects with her clients’ hearts. She is talented and driven, offering us all a glimpse of what it takes to buck the complex system of racism and oppression. It’s important to know that the author also started two non-profits around these issues and communities. I hope the success of this book offers both the opportunity to grow and provide more help to incarcerated people and their families. From a writing perspective, Barnett hits a tone somewhere between frustration and outright anger at the system. And she balances that with her obvious caring for her clients and their families. Plus, she lets us see the toll her work takes on her own life. The structure of this memoir worked for me because it integrates so many stories and aspects of the issue. Finding a way to keep the intensity high without being overwhelming couldn’t have been easy for a new writer. But Barnett hits it out of the park. I recommend this to everyone who wants to explore the deeper personal, familial, and legal issues of the war on drugs, concepts of law and order, and mass incarceration. I predict this will become a classic text in the social justice movement. Acknowledgements Many thanks to NetGalley, Crown Publishing, and the author for the opportunity to read a digital ARC in exchange for this honest review.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    "A Knock at Midnight" is a book for those people who want to learn more about the criminal justice system in America through the lens of Brittany Barnett, a talented writer and lawyer. Barnett's path to becoming an outstanding criminal justice lawyer and advocate, which diverges from her original goal of being a corporate attorney, is influenced by her own experience with having an incarcerated family member. In addition to informing or reminding people about  inhumane sentences, if any time was "A Knock at Midnight" is a book for those people who want to learn more about the criminal justice system in America through the lens of Brittany Barnett, a talented writer and lawyer. Barnett's path to becoming an outstanding criminal justice lawyer and advocate, which diverges from her original goal of being a corporate attorney, is influenced by her own experience with having an incarcerated family member. In addition to informing or reminding people about  inhumane sentences, if any time was warranted at all, and the inhumane conditions in which we incarcerate people, is that those we are putting behind bars are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and friends. Our legal system, media, and society as a whole dehumanizes those behind bars, and denies rights to returning citizens, when this book reminds you over and over that we are incarcerating our mothers, fathers, siblings, other family members, and friends with the possibility of never seeing them again outside of prison walls. I am hopeful people will get as much out of this book as I did, look into supporting Barnett's organizations, and await further written works from her.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Klassen

    A Knock at Midnight highlights a few stories among thousands. The underrepresented story of incarcerated Americans serving overly long sentences for the actual crimes they committed and the evidence in the cases against them. This has so much heart and hope. I loved that the centre of this story was Barnett's own memoir, her experiences in some of the same situations as her clients. Growing up with loving family but a parent who struggled with addiction during her adolescence. Barnett was gifted A Knock at Midnight highlights a few stories among thousands. The underrepresented story of incarcerated Americans serving overly long sentences for the actual crimes they committed and the evidence in the cases against them. This has so much heart and hope. I loved that the centre of this story was Barnett's own memoir, her experiences in some of the same situations as her clients. Growing up with loving family but a parent who struggled with addiction during her adolescence. Barnett was gifted and was the hope of her family to make something of herself and give back to her community. This book captured all the tragedy and anger that Bennett, those incarcerated for inhumane lengths of time, their families and friends feel at the reality of racism in legal and carceral systems in America. It's a memoir about taking a lot of wrong in someone's and making something right for them because they deserve it. Injustice doesn't have to stay unjust if people like Barnett and those like her continue to overturn overly long sentences with their hard work and ingenuity. One person can make a difference. Sometimes good does triumph. Barnett undersells her accomplishments. She's not just an activist and a lawyer who has helped gain freedom for dozens of incarcerated people. She's also responsible for two non-profit organizations that focus on these issues and targeted communities. She draws attention to the unethical practices of courts and judges when it comes to evidence and sentencing. "Federal law adopted a 100-to-1 ratio, treating one gram of crack as equivalent to one hundred grams of powder cocaine for sentencing purposes". This isn't just unjust and racist, it's nonsensical, she points out. She describes how mandatory minimum sentencing damages communities and families and undermines the whole idea of justice. Sometimes the laws she discusses are repealed, but if the repeal isn't applicable to past sentencing, so many continue to suffer. I'm Canadian so this isn't my system, but racism factors greatly into convictions in Canada so it's all relevant and stemming from the same colonial project to keep BIPOC at the bottom of the social ladder using systemic racism. This story was so compelling in how it was written too. She doesn't give away how the fight for clemency will end for her clients, it's told moment to moment, month to month. As she gets a call to announce that one of her clients has been granted clemency, I feel the emotions that she is feeling too. I was crying washing dishes in my sink listening to this audiobook as Brittany's phone rang. The way she restores humanity to those who are commonly seen as uniforms, criminals, lifers. Who have their humanity stripped away alongside their freedom when they are convicted. I had to keep reading to hear if Sharonda would get out at all, let alone in time to see her first grandchild born. And it's important to note that some of the people she writes about never got out. Janice, Sharonda's paralyzed mother who was convicted of conspiracy through her daughter's connections to the drug trade in the most ludicrous, no-evidence necessary trial, was mistreated, neglected, and died in prison. She draws light to some of these truly tragic cases that don't end in clemency and freedom. My heart ached reading about years and lives wasted away in prison because of structural violence in the American legal system. What should be considered lesser offences are resulting in life sentences without chance of parole because the defendant is Black. A broken system designed to incarcerate BIPOC and profit off their labour. Another mechanism of the racial hierarchy of the country. If you liked Just Mercy or The New Jim Crow then A Knock at Midnight is along those lines. Barnett references Stevenson and Alexander a few times in the book so they are big influences for her powerful memoir and study of incarceration and racism in her country.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Canfield

    This book made me so mad (in the right way). The author used her own life experiences (drug addicted mom, unpredictable living arrangements) as motivation to take on two different passion projects. The first was launching Girls embracing Mothers - a program the provides interactive and therapeutic time for incarcerated women to spend with their own daughters. Programs like this are priceless in breaking the cycle of generational incarceration. Second, she launched a crusade to free people with dr This book made me so mad (in the right way). The author used her own life experiences (drug addicted mom, unpredictable living arrangements) as motivation to take on two different passion projects. The first was launching Girls embracing Mothers - a program the provides interactive and therapeutic time for incarcerated women to spend with their own daughters. Programs like this are priceless in breaking the cycle of generational incarceration. Second, she launched a crusade to free people with drug sentences from life in prison. She did not limit her work to clients with the perfect story. Instead, she took on the fact that drug sentencing in the 80s and 90s was so out of control that you could get a longer sentence for being a low level drug dealer than you would get for murder. She used her skills as a lawyer to write compelling cases to get sentences commuted - one sentence at a time. She did all of this while earning two degrees (accounting, law) and becoming a successful corporate lawyer in Dallas. Amazing story. I'm disappointed that this got pushed back to fall for publication due to the pandemic because I want to buy this book and send it to everyone. Great Book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Harris

    POWERFUL. EMOTIONAL. Those are just some of the words that describe this extraordinary book that chronicles Ms. Barnett's personal life witnessing her mother's incarceration due to drug use and then her professional career which has resulted in the release of so many people who were victims of an oppressive sentencing scheme. Part of what I enjoyed about this book is it's unique place in criminal law. If you've ever read "Just Mercy" or other books about wrongful convictions you see an ugly side POWERFUL. EMOTIONAL. Those are just some of the words that describe this extraordinary book that chronicles Ms. Barnett's personal life witnessing her mother's incarceration due to drug use and then her professional career which has resulted in the release of so many people who were victims of an oppressive sentencing scheme. Part of what I enjoyed about this book is it's unique place in criminal law. If you've ever read "Just Mercy" or other books about wrongful convictions you see an ugly side of the law whereby players in the criminal justice system intentionally act in ways that are morally and ethically reprehensible or act with such an incredible amount of ignorance and negligence you wonder how they manage to stay employed. Those books detail all the obvious facts pointing to the accused's factual innocence and the ensuing emotional and psychological turmoil of the appellate process in trying to right the underlying wrongs committed at the trial level. As the reader, you should be sickened that a person has spent years, decades even, for a crime they did not commit. Even a day behind bars was too much. For the most part, this book shows people who committed a crime by being playing a role (usually minor) in the sale and/or distribution of crack cocaine. I say "for the most part" because there are people in this book who clearly were at the wrong place/wrong time or were used as scapegoats by others looking to avoid harsh sentences when they did absolutely nothing illegal and that is a true travesty. But the bulk of Ms. Barnett's efforts are spent advocating for good people who made a bad decision or two and as a result of overzealous prosecutors combined with draconian laws that eliminated judicial discretion were sentenced to life in prison. Ms. Barnett's drive and passion are truly remarkable. Her willingness to put in 14-16 hours per day at her corporate law job and then go home to read trial transcripts and write clemency petitions is awe-inspiring. Combine that with the emotional toil of trying to get a commutation for a client who received a sentence totally disproportionate to their role or conduct. I imagine that having to sit and wait for a response on a clemency petition is akin to the nerves a trial attorney endures waiting for a jury to return with a verdict; no matter how much time and effort you put into your presentation of the case, the ultimate decision of your client's fate is in someone else's hands which is an incredibly nerve-racking experience. I'm not ashamed to admit that there were moments when I was on the verge of tears when Ms. Barnett received the call that her petition was granted and she got to relay this news to her clients. The joy of telling someone that after spending decades in prison of a life sentence they get to go home to their family must have been very emotional. This book does a great job of simply and succinctly explaining the laws created to combat the "War on Drugs" and the changes that have been made to rectify sentencing disparities. The true gem of this book is the hopefulness and optimism exhibited by Sharanda Jones, Corey Jacobs, Chris Young, Alice Johnson and others who were the beneficiaries of Ms. Barnett's legal help. It would have been so easy to become despondent and give up when the judges imposed their life sentences. Often young, first-time offenders, with families including children who they might never see again in free society. And despite it all they maintained faith that one day they would get out. They continued their educations, they mentored others, and they had positive attitudes in the most degrading of places, prison. Added bonus: although Ms. Barnett is not a natural writer by trade, I thought this book was very well-written and edited.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Carla (happiestwhenreading)

    I believe this book will be for me this year what Know My Name was for me last year…the most powerful and impactful book I’ve read all year. Not only is this memoir a glimpse into Barnett’s personal life, it’s also a look at the systemic racism at the heart of the United States’ justice system, specifically when it applies to drug offenses, and more specifically when talking about crack cocaine. Because her mother was in the prison system under a harsher sentence than her crime deserved, Barnett I believe this book will be for me this year what Know My Name was for me last year…the most powerful and impactful book I’ve read all year. Not only is this memoir a glimpse into Barnett’s personal life, it’s also a look at the systemic racism at the heart of the United States’ justice system, specifically when it applies to drug offenses, and more specifically when talking about crack cocaine. Because her mother was in the prison system under a harsher sentence than her crime deserved, Barnett was motivated to help as many unfairly sentenced drug convictions as she could. Under a clemency initiative under President Obama, Barnett was able to free seven people before he left office in 2016. Barnett and the people she helped free have commited their lives to social justice. She writes with such compassion and inspiration; I feel like I’m a better person for having read her book. I immediately followed Barnett on Instagram, as I really want to keep tabs on what she’s up to. The world would surely be a better place if we had more people like her – selflessly committing to right wrongs and to treat people with kindness.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Patsey

    So much injustice and I dont even know a teeny bit of it. The brilliant Brittany K Barnett shows us how the Reagan war on drugs 3 strikes rules were devastating to the African American community, how disporportionate the sentencing is, and the current fight for clemancy and commutation.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Jill Dobbe

    A very powerful story about a woman turned lawyer who comes from a background of drugs, alcohol and poverty. She works continuously to become a lawyer eventually working to free friends and loved ones from crimes that unfairly put them in prison for a long time, even life. During the time of the U.S. "war on drugs," the system wasn't always fair and the author became a crusader for making it more just. An interesting and engaging read that takes a hard look at how drugs and the prison system can A very powerful story about a woman turned lawyer who comes from a background of drugs, alcohol and poverty. She works continuously to become a lawyer eventually working to free friends and loved ones from crimes that unfairly put them in prison for a long time, even life. During the time of the U.S. "war on drugs," the system wasn't always fair and the author became a crusader for making it more just. An interesting and engaging read that takes a hard look at how drugs and the prison system can tear lives apart.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Hilary Swiers

    Brittny Barnett, a Black author, writes a spectacular memoir about her life growing up in Eastern Texas. She writes candidly about her childhood which is filled with fond memories of her mother earning her nursing degree, visiting her grandparents, and excelling in school, as well as painful, raw memories of watching her mother succumb to drug addiction and eventually prison. Despite enduring this trauma, Barnett is a survivor, resilient and high-achieving. She graduates high school and college Brittny Barnett, a Black author, writes a spectacular memoir about her life growing up in Eastern Texas. She writes candidly about her childhood which is filled with fond memories of her mother earning her nursing degree, visiting her grandparents, and excelling in school, as well as painful, raw memories of watching her mother succumb to drug addiction and eventually prison. Despite enduring this trauma, Barnett is a survivor, resilient and high-achieving. She graduates high school and college and later pursues a law degree. After receiving her law degree, Barnett is simultaneously moving up the corporate ladder, while doing pro bono work in the criminal system. She is fighting for clemency for clients wrongly convicted of mandatory life sentences under drugs laws, from the 1990s War on Drugs, that in present day are deemed unconstitutional and unfair. Specifically, she examines the contrasting treatment of crack and powder cocaine in federal sentencing and how it has greatly harmed Black people. Barnett powerfully describes her experience as a lawyer, fighting for clemency for her clients serving mandatory life sentences for drug convictions. She passionately fights for her clients, believing wholeheartedly that they are deserving of mercy, of a second chance. She paints such a picture as to humanize her clients and forces decision makers to see a living, breathing person behind their name. Barnett does an excellent job explaining how a system of mass incarceration destroyed lives, both those serving time and their family members. Barnett is also a founder of the non-profits The Buried Alive Project and GEM, Girls Embracing Mothers.

  14. 4 out of 5

    vanessa

    Maybe 4.5? For fans of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League, or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This was a really compelling, gripping story. Barnett has a slew of clients she writes about who were incarcerated in the '80s and '90s at the height of the "war on drugs." Many of her clients were facing incredibly punitive mandatory minimums; many of them w Maybe 4.5? For fans of Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace: A Brilliant Young Man Who Left Newark for the Ivy League, or The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. This was a really compelling, gripping story. Barnett has a slew of clients she writes about who were incarcerated in the '80s and '90s at the height of the "war on drugs." Many of her clients were facing incredibly punitive mandatory minimums; many of them were facing life in prison for a first-time drug offense. The thing I loved most about how Barnett writes their stories is that she makes them human, showing us their personality and skills (Sharonda's cooking or hairdressing, other clients' business acumen). When she tells us their stories she is not making excuses for them, but detailing what they did and why their sentence is unjust. Barnett's passion is evident - it's no wonder so many of her clients/friends have gotten out.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Layburn

    4.5 stars Brittany Barnett was still in law school when she heard about Sharanda Jones, an African American woman serving a life sentence without parole for a first time drug offense. Taken away from her daughter, her business, her loving family, Brittany saw parallels between Sharanda and Brittany's own mother, and she couldn't resist looking into the case to find out how a minor felony could result in such a devastating outcome. With that first step, she began a journey that would change her li 4.5 stars Brittany Barnett was still in law school when she heard about Sharanda Jones, an African American woman serving a life sentence without parole for a first time drug offense. Taken away from her daughter, her business, her loving family, Brittany saw parallels between Sharanda and Brittany's own mother, and she couldn't resist looking into the case to find out how a minor felony could result in such a devastating outcome. With that first step, she began a journey that would change her life, and many others. With a vibrant style of writing, Barnett takes readers through her own childhood with its many hurdles and hardships, but she also shares the times of security, the amazing mentors that fate provided to her, the successes she achieved in spite of and because of her varied life experience. Barnett humanizes the war on drugs, explains its direct path to life incarceration sentences, and reveals the alarming role that race plays in this movement. A powerful, upsetting, and necessary memoir.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dundee Library

    Such a good book! I read it in 2 sittings. The author, Brittany Barnett is such an amazing woman! This book tells about Brittany's life and her journey to becoming an advocate for first time drug offenders that were sentenced unjustly to life in prison without parole. Ms. Barnett doesn't just give generalizations, she tells about actual cases she worked on, the people and their story. I was astonished by what I read, the injustice was maddening. The people she is helping are not drug lords or kin Such a good book! I read it in 2 sittings. The author, Brittany Barnett is such an amazing woman! This book tells about Brittany's life and her journey to becoming an advocate for first time drug offenders that were sentenced unjustly to life in prison without parole. Ms. Barnett doesn't just give generalizations, she tells about actual cases she worked on, the people and their story. I was astonished by what I read, the injustice was maddening. The people she is helping are not drug lords or king pins, but people that made mistakes. This book made me feel so many different emotions and I definitely recommend it

  17. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    4.5 stars

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    The inequity in incarceration and systemic racism has never been more apparent. Now is the time to change the white house politicians from the Attorney General and on down to all Trump's cronies. This president, along with William Barr, is choosing to be blind in this injustice; Brittany K. Barnett has written an excellent novel, A Knock At Midnight. Brittany may be the next voice of this most worthy subject.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Neelam Babul

    Brittany Barnett, a Black author, writes a spectacular and intriguing memoir about her life growing up in Eastern Texas. She writes candidly about her childhood which is full of fond memories especially of her mother earning her nursing degree, visiting her grandparents, and excelling in school, as well as painful, raw memories of watching her mother succumb to drug addiction and eventually prison. Despite enduring this trauma, Barnett is a survivor, resilient and high-achieving. She graduates hi Brittany Barnett, a Black author, writes a spectacular and intriguing memoir about her life growing up in Eastern Texas. She writes candidly about her childhood which is full of fond memories especially of her mother earning her nursing degree, visiting her grandparents, and excelling in school, as well as painful, raw memories of watching her mother succumb to drug addiction and eventually prison. Despite enduring this trauma, Barnett is a survivor, resilient and high-achieving. She graduates high school and college and later pursues a law degree. After receiving her law degree, Barnett is simultaneously moving up the corporate ladder, while doing pro bono work in the criminal system. She is fighting for clemency for clients wrongly convicted of mandatory life sentences under drugs laws, from the 1990s War on Drugs, that in present day are deemed unconstitutional and unfair. Specifically, she examines the contrasting treatment of crack and powder cocaine in federal sentencing and how it has greatly harmed Black people. Barnett powerfully describes her experience as a lawyer, fighting for clemency for her clients serving mandatory life sentences for drug convictions. She passionately fights for her clients, believing wholeheartedly that they are deserving of mercy, of a second chance. She paints such a picture as to humanize her clients and forces decision makers to see a living, breathing person behind their name. I was impressed and moved by this incredible memoir.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anoka County Library

    Powerful and compelling narrative nonfiction that is hard to put down. One of those books that opens your eyes to the humanity and reality of systemic injustice, and the ways that passionate individuals, working together, and fighting for solutions can effect real change. There are thousands of humans locked away in our prisons based on laws that have been overturned, but not retroactively. The human potential is astounding. Prison reform means so much more to me now.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    Powerful and compelling narrative nonfiction that is hard to put down. One of those books that opens your eyes to the humanity and reality of systemic injustice, and the ways that passionate individuals, working together, and fighting for solutions can effect real change. There are thousands of humans locked away in our prisons based on laws that have been overturned, but not retroactively. The human potential is astounding. Prison reform means so much more to me now. ARC #PLA2020

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lynn

    Good Account of Getting Clemency fir Federal Drug Charges Many people are put into prison for harsh drug laws of years past. Small things sometimes caused people to get life. The story of a woman struggling though prison, watching her mother die in prison due to bad healthcare and seeing her daughter from age 9 grow into an adult without her is harrowing. The young law student who works on several cases and appeals to President Obama is heartening.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Carol

    A timely memoir that shows the power that one person can have in social justice issues. Brittany Barnett's own story is inspiring, and the stories of her clients' journeys through the court and prison systems are eye-opening and horrifying. It's a book I'll long remember. Thanks to Read It Forward and NetGalley for the complimentary advance Kindle copy.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Moellinger

    Buried alive. That is the reality for thousands of Americans serving sentences of life without parole, and many of those sentences are based on unjust sentencing laws that were created during America’s War on Drugs. Brittany K. Barnett has written a powerful memoir in which she explores her time as a young woman with an incarcerated mother, her journey as a law student, becoming a corporate lawyer while working pro bono to draft clemency petitions, and co-founding the Buried Alive Project. This b Buried alive. That is the reality for thousands of Americans serving sentences of life without parole, and many of those sentences are based on unjust sentencing laws that were created during America’s War on Drugs. Brittany K. Barnett has written a powerful memoir in which she explores her time as a young woman with an incarcerated mother, her journey as a law student, becoming a corporate lawyer while working pro bono to draft clemency petitions, and co-founding the Buried Alive Project. This book is also a love letter to the Black community and the Black excellence she has witnessed throughout her life. Barnett uses personal stories and stories of her clients to explore the War on Drugs, mass incarceration, and the grave need for prison reform, and she is able to write in a way that is page turning as the reader is on the edge of their seat wanting to know the client’s outcomes. Barnett does a beautiful job of humanizing the issues behind the need for prison and justice reform. There were moments when I was closing the book in frustration and others when I had tears streaming down my face from relief and joy. Brittany K. Barnett is truly an inspiration in how one person can use her strength, passion, intellect, and community to affect so much change. This memoir is a call to action. Take the time to educate yourself on America’s horrendous problem of mass incarceration. Then do something - either through direct political action, donations, voting - find your way to make an impact. Remember that behind every prison number there is a person. Sharanda. Keyon. Donel. Wayland. Mike. Terry. Alice. Corey. Chris. And so many more. They are people with hearts and minds and souls and dreams and love and stories.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tori Michelle

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Brittany Barnett is a female Bryan Stevenson. A true powerhouse. I am overtaken by her grit & tenacity. Brittany chose to follow her heart & help free wrongfully convicted / life sentenced minorities. It is sad how many minorities are given life sentences without a ounce of care. Brittany gives us the opportunity to understand the tediousness needed for clemency to be accepted. Brittany also discusses how grateful she was for Obama and his efforts to free numerous extraneous charges. 80% of the Brittany Barnett is a female Bryan Stevenson. A true powerhouse. I am overtaken by her grit & tenacity. Brittany chose to follow her heart & help free wrongfully convicted / life sentenced minorities. It is sad how many minorities are given life sentences without a ounce of care. Brittany gives us the opportunity to understand the tediousness needed for clemency to be accepted. Brittany also discusses how grateful she was for Obama and his efforts to free numerous extraneous charges. 80% of the cases awarded clemency were minorities. I highly recommend this book for those interested in the pains minorities face, what is being done, & how we all can do our part to help free those wrongfully convicted or given an insane sentencing.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    This book highlights the very real harm that unjust sentencing laws do, not only to the black people that are burdened with ridiculous sentences but also to their families and communities. I read an advanced copy of this on Edelweiss.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Robert Montalbo

    Ms. Barnett delivers an amazing story of perseverance, of finding her true calling when she realizes justice is more important than a high profile career. Honesty and integrity are more important that working for a big firm. Helping others is so much more relevant than making a name for herself. Saving lives and doing Gods work is the greatest gift and lesson learned by this story. We need more people like Ms. Barnett in this world.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Pat

    A marvelously thought-provoking read. Brittany Barnett has proven herself to be a selfless advocate for justice and prison reform. Truly inspirational.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    A Knock at Midnight is author, entrepreneur, and lawyer, Brittany K. Barnett's account of both her own journey growing up with a mother who struggled with addiction and was eventually jailed, as well as her quest stemming from her own experiences, to free those harnessed with life sentences for lower infractions related to the war on drugs due to the uneven federal sentencing guidelines that were eventually overturned, but not made retroactive. Barnett notes how her fascination with the inequal A Knock at Midnight is author, entrepreneur, and lawyer, Brittany K. Barnett's account of both her own journey growing up with a mother who struggled with addiction and was eventually jailed, as well as her quest stemming from her own experiences, to free those harnessed with life sentences for lower infractions related to the war on drugs due to the uneven federal sentencing guidelines that were eventually overturned, but not made retroactive. Barnett notes how her fascination with the inequality of the laws from the war on drugs started with seeing a clip of Sharanda Jones and her life sentence while the dealer and other higher ups she briefly worked with walked away with lesser sentences shocked Barnett and got her interested in taking on Jones' case pro bono while working full time as a corporate lawyer. Jones' case then brought her to others who had experienced similarly unfair sentences. Soon Barnett was working late evenings at her firm only to go home and work until the wee hours of the morning writing appeals for clemency to President Barack Obama under his clemency initiative - the only avenue available to many of her clients. Barnett learned the ins and outs of clemency and went a step further, getting to know each of her clients and their stories personally so that her appeals were full of the personality of her clients, allowing their merits to shine and the unjust nature of their sentences to speak for itself. A fascinating true legal tale intermixed with Barnett's own life story and how she used her own painful experiences for good. Barnett's prose shines both in its commitment to justice and for her natural writing abilities. A great read about an impressive lawyer and her continuing quest for justice. Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    I cannot review this title highly enough. This book is perfect for today’s market. But it is a rare thing right mow that can give both solutions and hope. I was inspired and motivated. (In fact, I have already recommended it to my local independent book store. “A system that did everything in its power to dehumanize and still failed was a vulnerable system. And a vulnerable system can be transformed.” Brittany Barnett’s mom was incarcerated when she was young. She and her sister, Jasmine, traveled I cannot review this title highly enough. This book is perfect for today’s market. But it is a rare thing right mow that can give both solutions and hope. I was inspired and motivated. (In fact, I have already recommended it to my local independent book store. “A system that did everything in its power to dehumanize and still failed was a vulnerable system. And a vulnerable system can be transformed.” Brittany Barnett’s mom was incarcerated when she was young. She and her sister, Jasmine, traveled weekly across the state to visit, She saw first hand the effects of incarceration not just on the inmate, but also on the family. That motivated Brittany to survive, to question, and ultimately to change the very system she was inside. I am ashamed to admit my ignorance of this subject. Especially in this election year, it is illustrated daily that laws in this country can be exploited. All too many people suffer. Brittany doesn’t tell her story for sympathy. She tells it in a matter-of-fact way. The same way she describes her circumstances. Once her Mom is released, Brittany goes to law school. Although she specializes in corporate law, her old neighbors continue to call, asking for help with cases. They draw her in, one case at a time, until she sees a YouTube video about a woman named Sharanda - who has the same identification number as her mom. Sharanda is a victim of circumstance and the Draconian laws allegedly designed to coerce people through threats and fear. If they don’t turn on others, their sentences are maxed - sometime without their knowledge. Forensic evidence? Irrelevant. Prior record? Irrelevant. In my opinion, this book shows one of the truest American dreams - life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for ALL persons. All too many have their lives stripped away, their families wrecked for no good reason. Change is inevitable. There are simply too many casualties. Clemency is a gift given to far too few. Especially now. I admire Brittany’s tenacity, Sharonda’s grit, her mother’s determination and the faith and spirit that bunds them all together. I learned from this book. It made me think. I was educated and inspired. And it makes me feel better to know that things can, must and do change, And to focus on the positive instead of the negatives,

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