"Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough" 


The Other Death Penalty Project is proud to announce our new book, “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough,” an anthology of writings by life without parole prisoners and others powerfully depicting why life without parole is the death penalty. The anthology, which won the Gold Medal for Best Anthology in the 2013 Independent Publisher ("IPPY") Awards), is the culmination of two years of intense work by the Project, including conducting a nationwide writing contest judged by noted author and prison reform activist Luis J. Rodriguez, who has written a preface for the book.

The Other Death Penalty Project was awarded a generous grant from the Peace Development Fund, which paid for the publication costs of the book. Through this grant, and as part of a larger campaign to educate those in positions of power about LWOP as the death penalty (funded by Resist, Inc., the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, the United Church of Christ Neighbors in Need Fund), the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, and the Left Tilt Fund), 400 copies of “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough” have been placed on the desks of policymakers, judges, and thought leaders nationwide, including death penalty abolitionists who argue for LWOP as a “reasonable alternative” to traditional forms of execution.  (Click here to see a list of recipients.)


"Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough" is now available for purchase!  Click here to order your copy. All proceeds from book sales support the vital work of The Other Death Penalty Project.  



Praise for “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough”


“The clearest example of the effects of childhood abuse and trauma on society can be seen in our prisons. This remarkable book gives voice to those, wounded and discarded as children, whom we have condemned as adults to death by incarceration. Their stories will move you to tears, to compassion, and to the understanding that no one is beyond redemption. Your view of life without parole sentences will be forever changed.” 


     ---Susan E. Lawrence, M.D., Founder and CEO of The Catalyst Foundation and James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award Finalist


"This extraordinary collection of essays will electrify you, move you to tears, and force you to reckon with an inconvenient truth: Life without parole is not a defensible, moral alternative to the death penalty. It is the death penalty. By denying those sentenced to die in prison any hope of redemption, we are denying their basic humanity. People of conscience must commit to ensuring that these stores, brilliantly crafted and born of pain, will not be told in vain. The time is long overdue to abolish life without parole in the United States. If you wonder, even in the slightest, whether such sentences might be justified, read this book.


     ---Professor Michelle Alexander, author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness."


“America has long been searching for a humane method of execution. We have gone from hangings, firing squads, electric chairs and gas chambers to the current method of choice, lethal injection. A term of life without parole, in which the person is sentenced to die in prison, is surely America’s other death penalty. The voices in this illuminating book of those condemned to death by incarceration show us in no uncertain terms that these men and women suffer a fate that is both cruel and barbaric. There are times when life is harder to bear than death. Life without parole may be one of those times.”


     ---Robert Johnson, Ph.D., Professor of Justice, Law, and Society, American University  


“‘Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough’ is about an issue not many people think about, but which impacts the very soul of a country. You simply cannot throw anyone away. Redemption, opportunity, rehabilitation, restoration--all are paramount today in any sentencing, for any crime. The results are healing, extremely less costly, and more likely you pull on the great capacity within all people to mature, think, humanize, and change. I recommend you heed these voices--they argue a powerful case against Life Without the Possibility of Parole.”


     ---Luis J. Rodriguez, author of “Always Running, La Vida Loca, Gang Days in L.A.” and “It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing.”


“Moving and insightful, honest and enlightening, this is an extraordinary book. It offers a crucially important perspective on America's punitiveness. Readers are given the chance to learn about life without parole by hearing the voices of those on whom this ultimate penalty is imposed. It is hard to resist the conclusion that life without parole is America's other death penalty.” 


     ---Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, Amherst College; Editor of “Life Without Parole: America’s New Death Penalty?”


"'The Other Death Penalty,' as life without parole is known, has turned out to be a far worse option than the death penalty. This devastating collection of writings by teachers, prison activists and "lwops" (inmates sentenced to life without parole) is a testament to the courage, resourcefulness, and sheer will of its contributors. But they are writers first, and their fierce, vigorous talent is what makes Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough such a powerful act of resistance to the most grievous deprivation of all - the deprivation of hope.” 


     ---James Atlas, Publisher, Atlas and Co


“Life without the possibility of parole is barbaric beyond the definition of the word. As someone who has served a prison sentence, this degree of punishment is unimaginable. Read this collection and gain a glimpse into how the human spirit finds hope in an otherwise hopeless world. Read “Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough” and then fight for change.” 


     ---Wayne Kramer, Artist, Activist, and Co-Founder of Jail Guitar Doors USA



TODPP National Writing Contest Winners


The following anthology contributors were selected by our judge, Luis J. Rodriguez, as winners in the national writing contest we conducted in preparation for the publication to "Too Cruel, Not Unusual Enough."  The names of the winners were announced in the September 2011 issue of Prison Legal News:


FIRST PLACE - $250: Dortell Williams

SECOND PLACE - $100: Robin Ledbetter

THIRD PLACE - $50: Joseph Badagliacca


Be sure to read their outstanding essays in our award-winning book!