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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. 4 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. 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.

  8. 5 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.

  9. 5 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.

  10. 4 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.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    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.

  12. 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.

  13. 5 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.

  14. 5 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.

  15. 4 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

  16. 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.

  17. 5 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 4 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 5 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.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Sharon May

    Many thanks to NetGalley, Crown Publishing, and Brittany K Barnett for the opportunity to read and review this powerful book - very important especially in the current BLM climate. 5 stars! Brittany had a tough childhood - even though she was surrounded by strong family members and felt completely loved and supported, her mom was a drug addict who eventually had to spend time in prison. The experience of going to visit her mom in jail changed Brittany's life. Always a smart student, she was drive Many thanks to NetGalley, Crown Publishing, and Brittany K Barnett for the opportunity to read and review this powerful book - very important especially in the current BLM climate. 5 stars! Brittany had a tough childhood - even though she was surrounded by strong family members and felt completely loved and supported, her mom was a drug addict who eventually had to spend time in prison. The experience of going to visit her mom in jail changed Brittany's life. Always a smart student, she was driven to do better for herself, going to college and graduating with an accounting degree and top job opportunities. But her childhood dream of becoming a lawyer (formed after watching The Cosby Show) became her next goal. In her studies, she came across the story of Sharanda, a single mom serving a sentence of life without parole for a first time drug offense. She met with Sharanda and became obsessed with finding justice for her. Even when she graduated from law school and became a corporate lawyer with a prestigious firm, she worked tirelessly on Sharanda's case. And she quickly discovered that Sharanda was far from the only one - the War on Drugs filled the prisons with mostly black people facing life without parole for minor drug offenses. Powerfully written and completely eye-opening, this book is a tribute to Brittany's perseverance and dedication as well as the faith and strength of her clients in prison, trying to do what they can behind bars to improve others. A must read!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elisa

    A Knock at Midnigh is a remarkable memoir, extremely compelling and full of character, detailing driven attorney Brittany K. Barnett's early life in Eastern Texas, the trauma of her mother's incarceration and the subsequent impact it had in her life, as she begins to work tirelessly to advocate for her clients against their own inhumane and nonsensical life sentences for drug offenses, all while working full time as a corporate lawyer. Reading this memoir it's not an easy feat if you have any re A Knock at Midnigh is a remarkable memoir, extremely compelling and full of character, detailing driven attorney Brittany K. Barnett's early life in Eastern Texas, the trauma of her mother's incarceration and the subsequent impact it had in her life, as she begins to work tirelessly to advocate for her clients against their own inhumane and nonsensical life sentences for drug offenses, all while working full time as a corporate lawyer. Reading this memoir it's not an easy feat if you have any resemble of empathy for the pain of others: it details the terrible laws that incarcerated a disproportional amount of black youth for the rest of their lives, sometimes for minor drug offenses, and the system that allowed law enforcement and prosecutors to construct damaging narratives to the point of tying judges' hands at every turn. It does this by presenting to us the lives of the sentenced with a compassion that carries throughout the whole book: it never ceases to make us see these people past their mistakes and into their spirits, gifting us an understanding of them that brings along the devastation of thinking them incarcerated for life. All this is done with a spectacular narrative: the book moves fluidly, never lacks and is ever engrossing. If anything, the last chapters may feel rushed after such detailed storytelling, but it still painted a very clear picture of the stakes and the work to be done. I'm very glad to have picked up this book and I highly recommend it.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Brittany K. Barnett is an American heroine. With little resources she sets her sights on devastating injustice and case by case - Brittany saves lives, offering hope for many who had none. For those of us who were unaware of her mission or of the widespread atrocities she is up against, this enlightening memoir will make you equally mad and in awe of this dynamic young woman. Brittany grew up in the south. Her family didn’t have much but she had love and support even when times were extremely to Brittany K. Barnett is an American heroine. With little resources she sets her sights on devastating injustice and case by case - Brittany saves lives, offering hope for many who had none. For those of us who were unaware of her mission or of the widespread atrocities she is up against, this enlightening memoir will make you equally mad and in awe of this dynamic young woman. Brittany grew up in the south. Her family didn’t have much but she had love and support even when times were extremely tough. She worked hard, helped those she could and made her success one that the entire town could be proud of. As a law student at SMU Brittany dove deeply into cases of wrongful incarceration and draconian judicial structures that left thousands serving life sentences with no parole. Brittany took on appeals and made pleas for clemency. She met with prisoners and their families and fought for them as if they were her own. Learning as she went along, this corporate lawyer worked pro bono every moment she could squeeze out of her day to fight for freedom and second chances. Her remarkable story is only a piece of her very personal journey. I loved reading about this beautiful, intelligent and selfless soul. I couldn’t put down this book as I read about her life and learned something I knew very little about. Brittany’s words will be with me always.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jess Witkins

    A definite recommend for fans of Bryan Stevenson's "Just Mercy" and Anthony Ray Hinton's "The Sun Does Shine." But more folks should read this book simply to understand the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. When I read about the 100 to 1 ratio put in place that makes crack charges exponentially higher than cocaine charges, it blew my mind. It seems like an archaic law, and yet it's not that old, but because of it thousands of people, most of them Black, are serving life sentence A definite recommend for fans of Bryan Stevenson's "Just Mercy" and Anthony Ray Hinton's "The Sun Does Shine." But more folks should read this book simply to understand the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. When I read about the 100 to 1 ratio put in place that makes crack charges exponentially higher than cocaine charges, it blew my mind. It seems like an archaic law, and yet it's not that old, but because of it thousands of people, most of them Black, are serving life sentences without the chance of parole. While the laws surrounding drug charges have improved somewhat for those receiving sentencing now, they are not retroactive, so victims of the war on drugs are serving time in a situation that, had they been charged today, wouldn't be as harsh, but now must keep serving without the help of a lawyer who fights for clemency. And as you read the book, you'll learn that's an under-served area of practice too in terms of the number of potential clients. Wow, just wow. Eye opening. Heart breaking. Brittany K. Barnett ensures you understand the numbers equate to heartbeats. I will definitely be recommending this book far and wide.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sharyn Berg

    A Knock at Midnight is a timely semi-autobiographical book about cruel and unusual punishment and systemic racism that was prevalent in unfair sentencing during America’s drug wars. Brittany K. Barnett has a heart for those who were unjustly sentenced to more time than their actions deserved and uses her own resources to fight for and obtain clemency for her pro bono clients. You will read the true accounts of young people who out of desperation made unthinkable choices into the world of drugs a A Knock at Midnight is a timely semi-autobiographical book about cruel and unusual punishment and systemic racism that was prevalent in unfair sentencing during America’s drug wars. Brittany K. Barnett has a heart for those who were unjustly sentenced to more time than their actions deserved and uses her own resources to fight for and obtain clemency for her pro bono clients. You will read the true accounts of young people who out of desperation made unthinkable choices into the world of drugs and/or drug trafficking. While each of them willingly admits that they did wrong, they were punished above and beyond what was normal through unfair sentencing laws that tied the judges hands and for trumped up charges issued to keep them in prison. When you see these prisoners as real people with real lives and real families, it is heart wrenching to hear what they went through. This book is a glimpse into a world that not many of us know much of and into the remarkable heart of one woman who try to make a difference and succeeded. I highly recommend this book. Thank you to NetGalley for the advance read copy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This book touches on the legal system, systemic racism, the negative impact of "the war on drugs", and a myriad of other topics that are intertwined with the above. The heart of this book is the author and her relationships with everyone she meets. Brittany K. Barnett is someone that you would want in your corner in a legal battle and also want at your Sunday family dinners. A Knock at Midnight could very easily have slipped into a self-congratulatory exercise in narcissism. The author has done This book touches on the legal system, systemic racism, the negative impact of "the war on drugs", and a myriad of other topics that are intertwined with the above. The heart of this book is the author and her relationships with everyone she meets. Brittany K. Barnett is someone that you would want in your corner in a legal battle and also want at your Sunday family dinners. A Knock at Midnight could very easily have slipped into a self-congratulatory exercise in narcissism. The author has done so many extraordinary things solely through her brilliant mind, empathetic heart, and her indomitable spirit. Through it all, she remains humble and appreciative of everyone around her. Honestly, I wish I could be her friend! "This life has taken me on a remarkable journey -- one that continues to transform my understanding of justice and the very definition of freedom itself. Every day I celebrate the lives of the many people who have given me the privilege of representing them. In many ways, they have freed me too."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Susan Burlew

    An incredible woman fights for people unfairly sentenced to ridiculous amounts of prison time. The so called "war on drugs" laws basically gave federal prosecutors free reign to do whatever they wanted. A woman is sentenced to life with no chance of parole for a first time drug conviction. The only "evidence" was hearsay from a woman who got a lighter sentence for naming her. Another piece of "evidence" was a recording of the accused calling her coworkers from a burger place asking what they wan An incredible woman fights for people unfairly sentenced to ridiculous amounts of prison time. The so called "war on drugs" laws basically gave federal prosecutors free reign to do whatever they wanted. A woman is sentenced to life with no chance of parole for a first time drug conviction. The only "evidence" was hearsay from a woman who got a lighter sentence for naming her. Another piece of "evidence" was a recording of the accused calling her coworkers from a burger place asking what they wanted. According to the prosecutor burgers, fries and onion rings were "code" for drugs. Eventually these laws were changed but not retroactively. There are tens of thousands of people still in prison. A federal judge resigned after having to follow sentencing guidelines! I felt like I was reading some horrifying dystopian novel! The author eventually resigned from a lucrative corporate career to have more time to fight these injustices. I can't stress the importance of reading this book!!! Everyone needs to!!!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Molly Roach

    A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett This was so moving. The book details the racism and inequality of mandatory minimum sentences, and the overall injustice that is the War on Drugs, by using the personal stories of her current/former clients sentenced to LWOP for nonviolent drug offenses. Barnett also outlines the rampant corruption in the prosecutorial system. Interspersed between beautiful and tragic and moving stories about her clients, she dives A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom by Brittany K. Barnett This was so moving. The book details the racism and inequality of mandatory minimum sentences, and the overall injustice that is the War on Drugs, by using the personal stories of her current/former clients sentenced to LWOP for nonviolent drug offenses. Barnett also outlines the rampant corruption in the prosecutorial system. Interspersed between beautiful and tragic and moving stories about her clients, she dives into her own life growing up as a Black girl in redlined and segregated towns, dealing and with her mother’s addiction and incarceration. I think this is absolutely worth the read. It’s a really good companion piece to Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Where JM mainly details the racism of the death penalty, this book takes a necessary step further to examine the ‘alternative death sentence’ - life without parole. Add this to your reading lists, you’ll be better for it. 5/5⭐️

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