Almost Innocent: From Searching to Saved in America’s Criminal Justice System
by Shanti Brien
Shanti Brien was a practicing lawyer and a recovering NFL wife when the Department of Justice began a criminal investigation of her husband’s company. This collision of her personal and professional lives altered her view of the system she’d dedicated her life to and frames Almost Innocent, an insightful examination of the broader criminal justice system.
Detailing the stories of nine of Brien’s clients, from the obviously guilty to the surprisingly innocent, Almost Innocent candidly describes how each of Brien’s clients journeyed through the messy and tragic criminal system and touched Brien’s life, saving her from stupid mistakes, strengthening a football-ravaged marriage, and teaching her about humility, redemption, and humanity.
Almost Innocent walks the line between memoir and political commentary, crafting an intimate portrait of the criminal justice system and offering suggestions for what it could be: more fair, more humane, and more just.
My thoughts: This is Shanti Brien’s experience in the criminal justice system that she experienced beginning first as a law student, on through becoming more experienced as she became a full-fledged practicing attorney. She was also the wife of an NFL player and businessman, and eventually a mother to three children. The book recounts some of her more fascinating cases and how she dealt with them while juggling being a wife and mother, and many relocations. I found the criminal justice aspects really riveting as she kept getting such awful cases and worked so hard to try and help them somehow. These are horror stories of young people being sentenced to one or more life sentences, either wrongly, or for seemingly minor offenses. There’s just something off about each one that really requires looking into. I really enjoyed her book, sharing about her career, family, and insights. Advance electronic review copy was provided by NetGalley, author Shanti Brien, and the publisher.
Publisher: Amplify Publishing – 203 pages
Publication: March 2nd, 2021
My rating: 5/5 STARS
About the author– Shanti Brien has a Bachelor’s degree in Ethnic Studies from UC Berkeley and a JD from Stanford Law School. She is an accomplished criminal defense attorney, with a specialty in appeals and post-conviction proceedings. She is co-Founder of Fogbreak Justice, an education and consulting company with the mission to transform the criminal justice system through experiences which reduce bias, promote fairness, build community trust, and create equity. Shanti writes about criminal justice and other social justice issues on Medium @shantibrightbrien. She co-authored June Jordan’s Poetry for the People: A Revolutionary Blueprint (Routledge, 1995); and contributed to The Road to Independence: 101 Women’s Journeys to Starting Their Own Law Firms (American Bar Association, 2011) and Lose the Cape: The Mom’s Guide to Becoming Socially and Politically Engaged (Kat Biggie Press, 2018). She lives in the East Bay with her husband and three kids.