From an award-winning journalist, 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.
Sylvia A. Harvey reports at the intersection of race, class, and policy. Her work has appeared in The Nation, VQR, ELLE, Colorlines, the Feminist Wire, the New York Post, and more. She is the recipient of a National Headliner Award and a National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Salute to Excellence award. The Oakland native holds a BA in sociology from Columbia University and a MS in journalism from Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism. Harvey lives in New York City.