Makes a powerful argument for adopting a model of restorative justice as part of the Innocence Movement so exonerees, crime victims, and their communities can come together to heal.
In Rectify, a former Innocence Project director and journalist Lara Bazelon puts a face to the growing number of men and women exonerated from crimes that kept them behind bars for years—sometimes decades—and that devastate not only the exonerees but also their families, the crime victims who mistakenly identified them as perpetrators, the jurors who convicted them, and the prosecutors who realized too late that they helped convict an innocent person.
Bazelon focuses on Thomas Haynesworth, a teenager arrested for multiple rapes in Virginia, and Janet Burke, a rape victim who mistakenly IDed him. It took over two decades before he was exonerated. Conventional wisdom points to an exoneration as a happy ending to tragic tales of injustice, such as Haynesworth’s. However, even when the physical shackles are left behind, invisible ones can be profoundly more difficult to unlock.
In the midst of Bazelon’s frustration over the blatant limitations of courts and advocates, her hope is renewed by the fledgling but growing movement to apply the centuries-old practice of restorative justice to wrongful conviction cases. Using the stories of Thomas Haynesworth, Janet Burke, and other crime victims and exonerees, she demonstrates how the transformative experience of connecting isolated individuals around mutual trauma and a shared purpose of repairing harm unite unlikely allies. Movingly written and vigorously researched, Rectify takes to task the far-reaching failures of our criminal justice system and offers a window into a future where the power it yields can be used in pursuit of healing and unity rather than punishment and blame.
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About the Author
Lara Bazelon is a writer and associate professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law, where she is the director of the Criminal Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinics. A 2016 MacDowell Fellow and a 2017 Mesa Refuge Langeloth Fellow, she is the former director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent. Bazelon is also a nonresident fellow with Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Atlantic, Washington Post, Politico, and Slate, where she is a contributing writer and has a long-running series about wrongful conviction cases. This is her first book.
Table of ContentsAuthor’s Note
Why I Wrote This Book
A Rapist in Richmond
Convicting the Innocent
A Broken System
The Road to Damascus
Life After Conviction
The Path to Exoneration
The Myth of Happily Ever After
Reframing Harm and Accountability
“Restorative Justice in Its Purest Form”
The Reformers, Part I
The Reformers, Part II