If you have been paying attention to the issues of policing, the criminal legal system, mass incarceration, mass criminalization, race and related topics, you are wondering: 

What does all of this mean? 

How does it work? 

How did we get here? 

How do I learn more? 

Where do we go from here?

What can I do to make change? 

Despite your interest, you feel overwhelmed at all the information out there, cannot always tell what is reliable and what isn’t, or the stuff you are finding isn’t answering your questions. 

This newsletter will help to change that! 

Is That Legal? seeks to demystify, raise awareness about and shed light on the criminal legal system by:

  1. providing explanations

  2. context

  3. commentary

  4. a curated list of some of the most reliable, accurate resources, writing and talks

This saves you time and energy while keeping yourself informed.

Invest in your own learning. Join me and a community of inquiring minds in an on-going conversation about the criminal legal system:

  • where we’ve been,

  • where we are and

  • where we might go from here

Challenge your thinking and your viewpoints. Get involved. Subscribe today, and spread the word to your family, social networks, and colleagues.

If you feel you already know this stuff, please spread the word.

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How does it work? 

First, you subscribe. 

Then, when I draft a new edition, I will send you a newsletter breaking down an area of the criminal legal system and the law, providing explanations, context, commentary, and a list of resources related to the topic.

Why write this newsletter?

Because the criminal legal system in all its forms, such as law enforcement, departments of corrections, probation and parole, etc. touches every single one of our communities and every facet of our community. Yet, as pervasive as it is, many of you have told me that you do not feel like you can fully engage with this topic because you are not too sure how the system actually functions, why it functions this way and how we got here. 

Why this topic? 

There are many, many reasons, but here are just a few: 

  • Because the criminal legal system is used to perpetrate an immense amount of violence and harm in our names and with our tax dollars, and it does not make us safer.

  • Because in 2020, 2.3 million people were incarcerated in jails and prisons around the U.S. (Prison Policy Initiative’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020). 

  • Because the U.S. incarcerates more people per capita than any other nation in the world at 698 people per 100,000 residents. (Prison Policy Initiative’s Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2020). 

  • Because we have to keep saying the names of the men and women killed by this system, directly at the hands of police or indirectly through harassment, wrongful convictions, discrimination and the list goes on. 

  • Because “[o]f the 1.46 million state and federal prisoners, an estimated 39 percent (approximately 576,000 people) are incarcerated with little public safety rationale. They could be more appropriately sentenced to an alternative to prison or a shorter prison stay, with limited impact on public safety.” (Brennan Center for Justice, “How Many Americans Are Unnecessarily Incarcerated?)

  • Because “in 2017, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that the average federal sentence for Black men was 19.1% longer than for white men for the same crime, even when criminal history and other factors were held constant.” (Adam Cohen, Supreme Inequality, p. 295).

There is a lot of great journalism and scholarship on the criminal legal system out there, and of course, a powerful push in our communities toward transformative justice. This newsletter will help you feel more informed about what the system does on our behalf, build a bridge so you can be more informed when engaging with the writing and activism already out there. Then, perhaps, you will feel empowered to get involved in community-based change and activism. 

As a public librarian, educator, lawyer, and researcher, I believe that “information is nourishment.”* Information is essential for all of us, and without it, we cannot help create a better future. However, there is A LOT of information out there, and not all of it is quality. I will help to make accessible to  you reliable, quality information

The legal, policing, and carceral systems are human creations, and it will take all of us to push to change these systems. This subscription newsletter will help give you the tools you need to get involved, or to feel like a more informed

Margaret Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science, p. 65.

Again, if you feel you already know this stuff, please spread the word. You can also support my work here

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Why me? 

I am a lawyer, librarian and qualitative researcher by training and a storyteller and advocate by nature. I have been digging deep into issues of race, policy and the law for many years, both in formal education settings and as someone involved in my community as a public librarian, educator and public defender. I have a PhD from Simmons University, where I studied white racial identity development, racism and policy in the U.S. After working as a data nerd and grantmaker for a few years, I went on to law school, where I wrote about and explored the ways in which the Constitution protects some but not all of us. Most recently, I have served as a public defender in a small, rural community in southeast Alaska, a capital habeas attorney, and a criminal defense attorney who works on CJA Panel and private cases. All of my experiences, and all of the questions I have received over the years, compel me to put to good use my explorations, education and writing skills in the hopes of being part of the push toward transformative justice, which is urgently needed. 

What is my standpoint?

As a trained qualitative researcher it is important that I situate my identity and standpoint, to let you know who I am and where I come from. I am a white, cisgendered, heterosexual, middle-class, highly educated woman, which means I stand in a place of great privilege in U.S. society. I have primarily lived in New England, with brief stints in the Mid-Atlantic, the South, and Alaska. 

Many years ago, I committed myself to educating myself, growing a vocabulary to participate in conversations around race, and being active in transformative justice efforts. That said, I have been enculturated to see the world in a very particular way. As a white person in the U.S., I am engaging in the constant work of evolving and growing after regularly making mistakes, saying or doing the wrong thing, and related challenges from undoing the programming of whiteness. I regularly bump into blindspots, biases, and prejudices that inform my worldview, and then do my very best to address them.

About Me

My name is Amy Greer. I have served as a public defender in Alaska, handling the misdemeanor docket in a small, diverse island in Southeast, as a capital habeas attorney working on bringing constitutional claims in federal court on behalf of people sentenced to death and incarcerated in state prisons, and as a criminal defense attorney working on criminal cases in federal courts. I have also worked as an archivist, public librarian, and grantmaker. 

I have a PhD in Library and Information Studies from Simmons University, where I focused my research on race, white racial identity development, and policy. Additionally, I attended the Roger Williams University School of Law and received my J.D., passing the Uniform Bar Exam in 2020. Finally, I majored in and studied theater and performance at both Wheaton College and the University of Pittsburgh.

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A newsletter about the criminal legal system, the law and their many intersections


Lawyer, librarian and qualitative researcher by training, and storyteller and advocate by nature. https://amyegreer.com/