Use this guide as a starting point for further learning on the topics explored in the film. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it contains articles, books, films, and podcasts that have been helpful and meaningful to our team. Please let us know which ones resonate with you and send other suggestions our way!

  1. Sentencing Effects of The Recall
  2. Background Court Documents
  3. The Failures of the Criminal Legal System
  4. Carceral Feminism & Unintended Consequences
  5. Survivor-Centered Responses to Violence
  6. Decarceration

Sentencing Effects of The Recall

Short Reading

  • Incentive Effects of Recall Elections: Evidence from Criminal Sentencing in California Courts, Sanford C. Gordon and Sidak Yntiso. This peer reviewed political science article found a 30% increase in sentences across the state of California in the six weeks following the announcement of the recall campaign. This article validates what many opponents feared would happen when the recall was announced – judges became far more punitive in sentencing, and not just for sex offense convictions and privileged defendants. In total, judges in the counties studied gave between 88 and 403 years of additional incarceration in that period. The authors estimate that the impact across all counties in California is more than five times as high (between 440 and 2442 years). The study controlled for a number of potential alternative explanations, including harsher recommendations from prosecutors, and it compared results with a neighboring state with no recall. The study found that although the increase was most pronounced for white defendants, it did not correct the pre-existing racial imbalance in sentencing. 

For direct access without a paywall go to Sidak Yntiso’s research website and click on “ungated version” of the article:

Background Court Documents

  • Commission on Judicial Performance Memorandum, 12/19/2016. In this memorandum, the Commission on Judicial Performance describes its investigation of Judge Aaron Persky for judicial misconduct. The allegations against Judge Perskey included racial and gender bias, issuing an unlawful sentence, and abuse of authority. The Commission investigated the allegations and concluded that there was not clear and convincing evidence of bias or any other misconduct by Judge Persky.
  • Sentencing Transcript, 6/2/2016. This is the transcript of the court proceeding in which Judge Aaron Persky sentenced Brock Turner. It includes Chanel Miller’s powerful impact statement (which can also be read in BuzzFeed News), and arguments by attorneys for the prosecution and the defense. It also includes Judge Persky’s explanation for why he issued the sentence that he did.

The Failures of the Criminal Legal System


  • Know My Name, Channel Miller. After having so many people talk about her case, Channel Miller tells her own story, describing the feelings she had both during and in the aftermath of the trial, and the ways that the criminal legal system fails survivors. Also see her powerful victim impact statement, published in full in BuzzFeed News.
  • Her Honor, Judge LaDoris Cordell. In this book, which draws from reflections of actual cases over the course of her career on the bench in California, Judge Cordell offers a down-to-earth, first-person look at the difficult decisions facing judges interested in bringing fairness to the courtroom.


  • Untouchable, David Feige, dir./prod. & Rebecca Richman Cohen, prod. The director of The Recall: Reframed: Reframed produced this award winning film, which follows the stories of both survivors and those convicted of sexual offenses. Driven by those personal narratives, the film explores how the sex offender registry came into being, and how it has severe and long-lasting consequences that make communities less safe.
  • 13th, Ava DuVernay, dir. “In this thought-provoking documentary, scholars, activists and politicians analyze the criminalization of African Americans and the U.S. prison boom.” In doing so, the documentary offers a detailed picture of the reality and source of deep structural racism present in America’s systems of incarceration.


Carceral Feminism & Unintended Consequences

Short readings

  • The Sentencing of Larry Nasser Was Not “Transformative Justice.” Here’s Why, Kelly Hayes, Mariame Kaba. In this article, the authors challenge the outpouring of public support for a judge’s decision to sentence USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nasser to decades in prison after being convicted of sexual assault. They remind us that the true test of commitment to nonviolent, anti-carceral alternatives to our criminal legal system is in cases involving the most harm.
  • Progressive Punitivism: Notes on the Use of Punitive Social Control to Advance Social Justice Ends, Hadar Aviram. In this essay, Professor Aviram tracks the left’s advocacy for the use of punitive power – both inside and outside the formal criminal legal system – to address social inequality. She cites the recall of Judge Persky as an example and details the pitfalls of using the criminal legal system to achieve social justice gains.
  • Beyond Panic and Punishment: Brock Turner and the Left Response to Sexual Violence, Sarah Cate. In this article, Professor Cate, argues that the call for harsh sentences in response to sexual violence obscures does not actually help survivors and crowds out the many other forms of support that survivors actually need. Additionally, she points out, the harms of ratcheting up criminal sanctions disproportionately impact poor people and people of color. 


  • The Feminist War on Crime: The Unexpected Role of Women’s Liberation in Mass Incarceration, Aya Gruber. Professor Gruber makes the case against many feminists’ impulse to demand harsher punishments for sexual crimes, arguing that in their fight to protect survivors of sexual violence, they have become “soliders in the war on crime… expanding the power of police and prosecutors.”
  • Abolition. Feminism. Now., Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners, and Beth E. Richie. This book lays out the natural intersectionality of struggles against oppression, especially in communities backboned by, and movements led by, women of color. For people who don’t understand abolition, it hones in on why feminist struggles toward gender justice aren’t possible without divesting from systems of harm – i.e. prisons, policing systems, and capitalism. The book itself, because of its collective of powerful authors, comes from a place that considers both forerunning academic thought and decades of lived experience of activism sustained while surviving racist, classist, and sexist structural oppression in U.S. society.
  • The Feminist and the Sex Offender, Judith Levine, Erica R. Meiners. In this book, Levine and Meiners explore the respective harms of sexual violence and the criminal legal system. They critique our sex offender carceral regime and explore alternatives from a feminist perspective.
  • Against White Feminism, Rafia Zakaria. The author explores the way that white feminists have long been centered as experts in “the feminist canon,” while ignoring women of color and LGBTQ+ communities. Zakaria forcefully reconstructs what feminism should look like – and who should be centered in it.


Survivor-Centered Responses to Violence

Short Readings

  • Justice Comes Home, Hyejin Shim. In this deeply personal article, Shim discusses transformational justice with grace and insight, exploring not only the benefits of this alternative model, but also its limitations.
  • Interrupting Intimate Partner Violence, Justice Teams Network. This guide describes the many ways that the current legal system fails survivors. It documents the reluctance of survivors to call the police for help, and the ways in which community-based services, like housing relocation assistance, could help interrupt intimate partner violence.
  • At the Core of Us: me too. International’s Social & Political Framework. This document produced by metoo International and Founder Tarana Burke, provides a framework for understanding the scope of sexual violence, and a guide for helping survivors to heal.
  • The Four Parts of Accountability and How to Give a Genuine Apology, Mia Mingus. In this blogpost, Mia Mingus describes the four parts of accountability – self-reflection, apology, repair, and change of behavior–and distinguishes accountability from punishment. Mingus also offers a guide to giving better apologies.
  • What About the Rapists, Miriame Kaba, Eva Nagao. This zine provides some answers to the common question posed to abolitionists: What about the rapists? It offers talking points while tying in statistics, infographics, and quotes.


  • Imperfect Victims, Leigh Goodmark. Driven by the stories of criminalized survivors she has represented, Goodmark shows how moving away from carceral responses is the only real way to reduce the harm on survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence.
  • Love WITH Accountability: Digging up the Roots of Child Sexual Abuse, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, ed. This anthology features rich storytelling by survivors that, collectively, answers the question of how we can respond to our society’s most traumatizing harms and hold those responsible accountable without relying upon racist criminal systems that perpetuate the cycle of harm for Black families especially.
  • Sexual Justice: Supporting Victims, Ensuring Due Process, and Resisting the Conservative Backlash, Alexandra Brodsky. This book looks at ways we can address sexual harm– in schools, workplaces, and other institutions – without relying on more police and more prosecutions. The book also discusses the ways in which our legal system has failed victims of sexual assault, treating their claims of sexual assault as less credible than other reports of crime.
  • Until We Reckon, Danielle Sered. Danielle Sered is the Executive Director of Common Justice, an organization that is pioneering alternative-to-incarceration programs. In this book, she presents a compelling argument for why prisons are not the answer to violence, and indeed produce more violence. She discusses the need to reckon with harm on an interpersonal level and on a national level, and offers pragmatic strategies for doing so – strategies that meet the needs of the survivors and communities. 


  • NO!, Aishah Shahidah Simmons, dir. Produced over a 12-year period (from 1994 to 2006), this documentary film about rape in the African American community captures difficult narratives of survival and endurance, told by leaders of a community seeking harm reduction long before it became a popular concept.



Short Readings

  • Don’t Believe the Hype, Sandra Susan Smith. In this article, Prof. Smith argues that ending mass incarceration will take more than just decreasing the number of people in prisons and jails. It will also require dismantling racial and class domination, repairing the harm caused by overcriminalization, and reinvesting in communities and social services.
  • Toward an Optimal Decarceration Strategy, Ben Grunwald. This article takes a detailed look at exactly how we might decrease the prison population. He proposes metrics for evaluating competing strategies for decarceration and concludes that any strategy will necessarily involve policy choices, that all approaches will have to include violent crimes, and that race-neutral approaches could actually exacerbate racial disparities. For a brief article describing his findings, see The Hard Trade-offs of Shrinking America’s Prisons, Stephen Handelman.


  • Locked In, John Pfaff. In this book, Prof. Pfaff examines the phenomenon of mass incarceration and questions the standard explanations for it – the war on drugs, private prisons, and harsh sentencing laws. Instead, he argues, more attention should be paid to the role of prosecutors and our responses to violent crime. For a brief interview with the author explaining his research, see Rethinking Mass Incarceration in America, Matt Ford.
  • The Growth of Incarceration in the United States: Exploring Causes and Consequences, Travis, Western, Redburn. This data-rich book charts the rise in incarceration in the U.S. Of particular note is the fact that in 1981, the average sentence served for murder was 5 years. 




Additional Material:

  • Screening Toolkit:  Use this toolkit to guide you through the entire process of organizing a screening, from selecting a venue, to promoting your event, to leading a successful discussion, to following up with your audience. It provides a checklist for in-person events and one for virtual events.
  • Discussion Guide: This comprehensive discussion guide dives deep into all of the topics explored in the film. It offers questions to pose to viewers as well as sample answers and additional contextual information to enrich the conversation.
  • Action Plan:  The film can evoke powerful feelings in people and viewers may find themselves looking for a way to channel that energy. This guide provides concrete ideas for getting involved in changing policy around the topics explored in the film.