The Courage of Compassion: A Journey from Judgment to Connection (Hardcover)
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"Powerfully insightful reading." —Kirkus Reviews
How would you like to be judged for the rest of your life by the worst thing you’ve ever done?
We all think we are compassionate just like we all think we are honest. But true compassion is not innate. Compassion for others, especially those that we don’t know or understand, must be learned. Our lack of compassion is perhaps most extreme in the exercise of criminal justice, where a person’s entire life, worth, and character are judged through the myopic lens of a single act. But no one, says Robin Steinberg, should be reduced to their worst moment.
From the founder and CEO of The Bail Project, The Courage of Compassion unveils how we can reimagine justice through compassion. Steinberg shares her journey as a public defender, representing people at precisely that time in their lives — their own worst moment. She recounts the heart-wrenching stories of her clients and invites us to interrogate our fears and beliefs about justice and punishment. Lastly, Steinberg reveals moments when she questioned her own capacity for compassion, as well as her ability to fight for better, more humane justice from within a system that is riddled with holes and seemingly interminable problems.
A gritty tale about confronting injustice and challenging ourselves to rediscover our shared humanity, The Courage of Compassion is an invitation to join Steinberg as she explores what it will take to move beyond our current justice paradigm. The criminal justice system reflects a history and power structure, but it also mirrors how we come into society and show up for one another. As she writes, the quest to improve this system will only truly begin “when we can finally see in the faces of those ensnared and imprisoned in our legal system, ourselves. And when we can see our children, in their children.”
About the Author
Robin Steinberg is the founder and CEO of The Bail Project, a national effort to combat mass incarceration by transforming the pretrial system in the United States. Over a 35-year career as a public defender, Robin represented thousands of low-income people in over-policed neighborhoods and founded three additional high-impact organizations: The Bronx Defenders, The Bronx Freedom Fund, and Still She Rises. Robin has also taught trial advocacy and other courses at Columbia University Law School and UCLA School of Law. Robin is a frequent commentator on criminal justice issues and has contributed opinion pieces to the New York Times, the Marshall Project, and USA Today.
Camilo A. Ramirez is a Colombian literary translator and strategic communications professional. He currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer for The Bail Project. His translations include The Desert and Its Seed by Jorge Barón Biza, and Like a Fading Shadow, by Antonio Muños Molina, which was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International Prize.
Praise for The Courage of Compassion
"Steinberg's uplifting vision will resonate with social justice reformers and any readers interested in the ongoing fight for justice in a broken system. Powerfully insightful reading."
“The ocean is made of drops, and individually we can all make a difference. We each have far more leverage and power than we’d like to admit. Steinberg’s book will infuriate and inspire you in equal measure.”
—Seth Godin, author of The Practice
“Steinberg’s book will not only educate, move, and inspire you to explore your innate sense of right and wrong and judgmental drives, but it will challenge you—chapter after chapter—to imagine what justice could look like in a system that wasn’t bent on retribution. When you are ready to hold up a mirror to your own sense of compassion, or lack thereof, read this book.”
—David McRaney, bestselling author of How Minds Change and host of the You Are Not So Smart podcast
“Emotional, heartbreaking, convincing, and challenging; this book is all of that and so much more. I encourage you to clear your mind and soul, pick up The Courage of Compassion, and walk the journey with ‘those people’ who Steinberg defends.”
—Bruce Deel, author of Trust First and founder and CEO of City of Refuge
“The Courage of Compassion is a gorgeously written guide to our criminal justice system seen through the life of one of its heroes. Steinberg’s raw exploration of the relationships that forged her provides a blueprint to forge a more just world. If you care about justice, read the book.”
—Dr. Phillip Atiba Solomon, Carl I. Hovland Professor of African American Studies, chair of the Department of African American Studies, and professor of psychology at Yale University; CEO/cofounder of the Center for Policing Equity
“Angry at crime and violence? Meet the people who fuel your fear and the lady who defends them. Then watch the impossible happen: You end up glad she does. Before you cast the next stone, pick up this book.”
—Lenore Skenazy, author of Free-Range Kids
“Searing, tender, and tough, this book beckons us to rediscover—and revel in—humanity. Steinberg stands with ferocity, empathy, and humor telling true stories of loving the unloved. Hear them and know why I long have admired her. Know, too, why the rigid, unprincipled, and punitive all fear her.”
—Dean Strang, author and veteran criminal defense attorney featured in the Netflix series Making a Murderer
“This book will challenge your most visceral, deeply held ideas about justice, and reshape your vision of what it means to fight injustice. Steinberg is perpetually inclined to action, and, on reading this riveting book, you will be too.”
—Sarah Stillman, staff writer for The New Yorker
“Rarely have I read a book about criminal justice that is as moving and profound. Weaving personal stories with insights about why justice is often illusory, Steinberg’s point is clear: social change requires us all to take a journey to understand those we have ‘othered’ and ignored.”
—Honorable Nancy Gertner, judge, US District Court for the District of Massachusetts (ret.); senior lecturer at Harvard Law School