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A searing exposé of the effects of the mass incarceration crisis on families -- including the 2.7 million American children who have a parent locked up In The Shadow System, award-winning journalist Sylvia A. Harvey follows the fears, challenges, and small victories of three families struggling to live within the confines of a brutal system. In Florida, a young father tries A searing exposé of the effects of the mass incarceration crisis on families -- including the 2.7 million American children who have a parent locked up In The Shadow System, award-winning journalist Sylvia A. Harvey follows the fears, challenges, and small victories of three families struggling to live within the confines of a brutal system. In Florida, a young father tries to maintain a relationship with his daughter despite a sentence of life without parole. In Kentucky, where the opioid epidemic has led to the increased incarceration of women, many of whom are white, one mother fights for custody of her children. In Mississippi, a wife steels herself for her husband's thirty-ninth year in prison and does her best to keep their sons close. Through these stories, Harvey reveals a shadow system of laws and regulations enacted to dehumanize the incarcerated and profit off their families -- from mandatory sentencing laws, to restrictions on prison visitation, to astronomical charges for brief phone calls. The Shadow System is an eye-opening account of the way incarceration has impacted generations of American families; it delivers a galvanizing clarion call to fix this broken system.


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A searing exposé of the effects of the mass incarceration crisis on families -- including the 2.7 million American children who have a parent locked up In The Shadow System, award-winning journalist Sylvia A. Harvey follows the fears, challenges, and small victories of three families struggling to live within the confines of a brutal system. In Florida, a young father tries A searing exposé of the effects of the mass incarceration crisis on families -- including the 2.7 million American children who have a parent locked up In The Shadow System, award-winning journalist Sylvia A. Harvey follows the fears, challenges, and small victories of three families struggling to live within the confines of a brutal system. In Florida, a young father tries to maintain a relationship with his daughter despite a sentence of life without parole. In Kentucky, where the opioid epidemic has led to the increased incarceration of women, many of whom are white, one mother fights for custody of her children. In Mississippi, a wife steels herself for her husband's thirty-ninth year in prison and does her best to keep their sons close. Through these stories, Harvey reveals a shadow system of laws and regulations enacted to dehumanize the incarcerated and profit off their families -- from mandatory sentencing laws, to restrictions on prison visitation, to astronomical charges for brief phone calls. The Shadow System is an eye-opening account of the way incarceration has impacted generations of American families; it delivers a galvanizing clarion call to fix this broken system.

40 review for The Shadow System: Mass Incarceration and the American Family

  1. 5 out of 5

    Zan

    I love the premise of this book and Harvey's purposeful accounts of the narratives of families in the United States. It lived up to my expectations in its dive into the flawed nature of the American prison system and the impact that it has had and still continues to have on children, parents, spouses, and the extended family. All of the cases added another facet to the complexity of the issue, and the earnest nature by which the stories were presented enhanced my reading experience. This was like I love the premise of this book and Harvey's purposeful accounts of the narratives of families in the United States. It lived up to my expectations in its dive into the flawed nature of the American prison system and the impact that it has had and still continues to have on children, parents, spouses, and the extended family. All of the cases added another facet to the complexity of the issue, and the earnest nature by which the stories were presented enhanced my reading experience. This was like a documentary or Netflix series in book form, which was wonderful, but I did feel at times that the stitching of the stories together was lacking and a bit patchy. Additionally, sometimes I did wish that there was more commentary interspersed within the stories, though I understand that being able to show the facts as they are preserves some integrity of the cases covered. My thanks to Netgalley and Perseus Book / PublicAffairs for this insightful ARC!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Christina Chiu

    Harvey is a compelling writer with a gift for bringing the reader face to face with real people and real lives; human lives lost to years of incarceration, all in the name of profit. There is no doubt after reading this that mass incarceration is a weapon used to target and oppress. Who profits from—and who pays for—mass incarceration? The narratives were so well written, so engaging, I literally could not put this book down. A must read

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sara Broad

    I thought this book was excellent. This is a great read for anyone looking to learn more about the experiences of families whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system and about the criminal justice system as a whole. The topics in the book are similar to those discussed in other similar books like "Just Mercy" and "The New Jim Crow," but what makes this book different is its focus on family experiences. Sadly, it shows how much work we still have to do to reform criminal justic I thought this book was excellent. This is a great read for anyone looking to learn more about the experiences of families whose lives have been affected by the criminal justice system and about the criminal justice system as a whole. The topics in the book are similar to those discussed in other similar books like "Just Mercy" and "The New Jim Crow," but what makes this book different is its focus on family experiences. Sadly, it shows how much work we still have to do to reform criminal justice in America and to provide services to reentering citizens and their families. I highly recommend this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Aida Alberto

    Loved this look into the prison system and the inmates who struggle to maintain normality in the face of chaos. It's heart breaking and hopeful at the same time. It's definitely a read now. Happy reading! #TheShadowSystem #NetGalley

  5. 4 out of 5

    Caitlin Myer

    Sylvia A. Harvey's narration is deeply compelling, and I was pulled into this book from the first paragraph. Ms. Harvey's deft portraits of her subjects weave in clear and ringing facts that expose the U.S. prison system for what it is: white supremacist, classist, and driven by profit (i.e., flat-out greed). This is absolutely essential reading for the heart-wrenching stories as well as the thorough and damning research that undergirds their narratives.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sandi

    This book is about the mass incarceration system . Three diffentrent families are written about and their dealing with prison life

  7. 5 out of 5

    Gregory

  8. 5 out of 5

    Melissa Cheresnick

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brady Clark

  10. 5 out of 5

    Eb

  11. 4 out of 5

    Reggie

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mind of Monet

  13. 4 out of 5

    Allison

  14. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

  15. 5 out of 5

    The Artisan Geek

  16. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cristie Underwood

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kusaimamekirai

  19. 5 out of 5

    Chuck

  20. 4 out of 5

    Danielle

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tashay

  22. 5 out of 5

    Susan The Book Dragon Campton

  23. 4 out of 5

    Amy Rogers

  24. 5 out of 5

    David

  25. 5 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  26. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia Gunnels

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lydia Wallace

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kim Ellis

  29. 5 out of 5

    Micielle

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sara - thelookingglassreads

  31. 5 out of 5

    Dana Scott

  32. 5 out of 5

    Gabby

  33. 4 out of 5

    Steff

  34. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  35. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Gerhart

  36. 4 out of 5

    Zally (ZenithMeridian)

  37. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

  38. 5 out of 5

    Violet

  39. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  40. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

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