Until We Reckon

Violence, Mass Incarceration, and a Road to Repair

The award-winning “radically original” (The Atlantic) restorative justice leader, whose work the Washington Post has called “totally sensible and totally revolutionary,” grapples with the problem of violent crime in the movement for prison abolition

“Profoundly necessary.” —Michelle Alexander, The New York Times

A National Book Foundation Literature for Justice honoree

A Kirkus “Best Book of 2019 to Fight Racism and Xenophobia”

Winner of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice Journalism Award

Finalist for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

In a book Democracy Now! calls a “complete overhaul of the way we’ve been taught to think about crime, punishment, and justice,” Danielle Sered, the executive director of Common Justice and renowned expert on violence, offers pragmatic solutions that take the place of prison, meeting the needs of survivors and creating pathways for people who have committed violence to repair harm. Critically, Sered argues that reckoning is owed not only on the part of individuals who have caused violence, but also by our nation for its overreliance on incarceration to produce safety—at a great cost to communities, survivors, racial equity, and the very fabric of our democracy.

Although over half the people incarcerated in America today have committed violent offenses, the focus of reformers has been almost entirely on nonviolent and drug offenses. Called “innovative” and “truly remarkable” by The Atlantic and “a top-notch entry into the burgeoning incarceration debate” by Kirkus Reviews, Sered’s Until We Reckon argues with searing force and clarity that our communities are safer the less we rely on prisons and jails as a solution for wrongdoing.

Sered asks us to reconsider the purposes of incarceration and argues persuasively that the needs of survivors of violent crime are better met by asking people who commit violence to accept responsibility for their actions and make amends in ways that are meaningful to those they have hurt—none of which happens in the context of a criminal trial or a prison sentence.


“A pioneer in restorative justice.”
“[Sered’s] ideas, and her practical experience with the Brooklyn-based group Common Justice, struck me as both totally sensible and totally revolutionary.”
—Tom Jackman, The Washington Post
“The work [Sered is doing] is truly impressive and innovative. . . . [It] encompasses two seemingly contradictory threads—one is diverting violent criminals from the prison system, and the other is helping victims heal. I found it completely, radically original and generally fascinating. . . . Truly remarkable work.”
—Scott Stossel, The Atlantic
“Danielle Sered provocatively offers and backs up a vision that actually promotes real healing for crime survivors and improves community safety. A must-read for anyone who truly wants to dismantle mass incarceration.”
—Nick Turner, president, Vera Institute of Justice
“If we don’t begin to talk about people who harm people and how we treat them, we will just be spinning our wheels in our efforts to end mass incarceration.””
—Norris Henderson, VOTE
“A must-read.”
New York Law Journal
“Sered issue[s] a clarion call to take [violent crime] seriously and handle it with nuance. Sered reminds us that, if we’re serious about reducing mass incarceration, we need to grapple seriously, and safely, with people who have committed violent offenses and the survivors of their crimes.”
“A top-notch entry into the burgeoning incarceration debate.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Recently, a loose network of gun-crime victims, as well as men and women who’ve survived sexual assault, violent robberies, and other violations of the social contract . . . have emerged with an alternative policy vision. Among its many champions is Danielle Sered, [who leads] pioneering efforts to provide community-based support to young men of color who’ve been harmed by violence . . . and those responsible for crimes.”
—Sarah Stillman, The New Yorker
“Sered’s wisdom and sharp insights are the guiding lights needed to illuminate a process of restorative justice for those grappling with dismantling the prison industrial complex.”
—Shaka Senghor, National Book Foundation Literature for Justice committee
“Sered makes a persuasive case for the potential of restorative justice to truly restore what has been taken from the victim and the community when a crime occurs.”
—Michelle Kuo, The New York Review of Books
“A pivotal text in the restorative-justice field.”
Harvard Magazine

News and Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Until We Reckon named one of Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2019 to Fight Racism and Xenophobia


“An essential new book.”


A “17 Books Every Activist Should Read in 2019” Pick

Democracy Now!

Danielle Sered speaks with Amy Goodman on radically changing our response to violent crime


Goodreads Reviews