“Eric Lotke is a beautiful writer and he has written a beautiful book. Making Manna is a wonderful story of family, redemption, and love that takes the reader from the prison to the school yard in a touching human way that we rarely experience.”
— Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood in the Water and winner of the
2017 Pulitzer Prize.
“Unforgettable, riveting, total emotional engagement, inspiring, and brilliantly written. By far the best adult book I’ve read in years.”
— Bonnie Ferrante, January 1, 2018, identifying Making Manna as her favorite reviewed in 2017.
I contributed a chapter about a missing component of criminal justice reform. Here are a blog post and an excerpt:
“Most of the attention is on what I call the push side. Too many people are being pushed into prison, for too many years. The push side is the heart of the reform agenda: sentencing and parole reform, treatment not jail, supportive reentry, geriatric release and so forth. Some reforms go beyond the justice system to matters of poverty, education and mental health – problems that lead people to crime and drugs in the first place. Such changes are vitally important and we need them all – but they affect only the push side of the system. They’re about why people go to prison, who, and for how long.
What’s missing is the pull side. Too many rural communities rely on prisons for jobs. They want to pull people in, and more are better. From security personnel to the local barber, everyone needs that prison to stay full.
As reform moves forward, entire towns and communities stand to lose their livelihoods. We can expect them to resist. The reform agenda needs to take this resistance seriously. The host community needs economic options in the same way that the judge needs sentencing options and people coming home need jobs.
Justice reform is more likely to succeed if it reduces the demand for prisons as well as the supply of prisoners. We want the host communities to embrace the change, not to fight it. It will be hard to fix the push unless we also work on the pull.”
An engineer learns how to take salt out of seawater. Cheap unlimited fresh water would benefit everyone – but it threatens businesses who like things as they are.
2044 starts where George Orwell’s 1984 left off. The problem isn’t Big Brother and the leviathan government. The problem is Big Brother, Inc., and the all-powerful marketplace.
— “Incredibly well-written and thought-provoking, both riveting and disturbing.” OpEdNews.com
— “Packs a Polemical Punch.” Reality Based Community.
Okay, this one isn’t really my book. The National Criminal Justice Commission hired me to write it. (But it was groundbreaking at the time, and it’s still true today).
Here is some of my other favorite material (that’s available on line). Scrolling down is practically a professional biography.
Push and Pull on Prisons
… in which I discuss how rural communities rely on prisons for jobs, even as justice reformers want to shrink them — and explore ways for both sides to win. This is just a blog post but it’s a whole chapter in The New Press’s book on Decarceration.
For Abraham Lincoln, on his Birthday (Feb. 12)
In 2016, I updated his Gettysburg address.
A Vote for Justice Over Money at the FCC
Huffington Post, October 22, 2015
This isn’t so important as a piece of writing, but it tells the happy ending to a campaign I started fifteen years ago. The FCC voted to end the exploitative pricing of phone calls from people in prison (averaging a dollar per minute, paid for by family on the outside).
The Real Problem with Private Prisons. Hint: It’s not the Lobbying.
Huffington Post, October 12, 2015
—Private prisons are a cancer. But they fill up because they are there. Companies build them, and people come. No need for pesky voter approved bond financing of public works.
Our Government is Broken: Ballot Initiatives Prove It
Huffington Post, November 7, 2014
—Democrats generally lost on Tuesday. But liberal, progressive ballot initiatives generally won. Many lessons emerge here. I list two but really care about the second.
Private Prisons: Resistance isn’t Futile
Truthout, March 13, 2012
—The private prison industry is on the march. In recent months the industry moved to take over 24 state prisons in southern Florida and buy five prisons in Ohio. Now it’s making moves in Michigan. But the industry doesn’t always win. Resistance isn’t futile. (AKA I’m working on prisons again, after all these years).
Pitfalls and Promises
Michigan Corrections Organization, February 14, 2012
I wrote this as part of MCO’s campaign to stop prison privatization in Michigan. Most of my work for unions I don’t claim as authorship because I am part of the collective — but this one is too tied to my personal history. The National Institute of Corrections liked it so much they added to their research library. I give more context in my associated blog post, Resistance isn’t Futile (above).
Public Employees Offer Solutions. Examples.
Huffington Post, June 11, 2011
—Enough with blaming public employees for all of America’s problems. Last week public employees in Oregon marched on the state Capitol with a billion dollars worth of recommendations. (Oregon, then Michigan: This post describes the first two major projects in my new job).
Breaking up the Banks: I did it!
Daily Kos, March 22, 2011
—First Wells Fargo acquired the bank I’d been banking in. Then Wells Fargo acquired my mortgage. I was becoming a wholly owned subidiary of Wells Fargo Bank. So I left.
The New Economy: Where we’re going; how we’ll get there.
Campaign for America’s Future, October 29, 2009.
—We can’t go back. We can’t pull out of the present downturn and return to the economy of the past — a high-consumption, low-wage economy based on asset bubbles and foreign borrowing. We need to look ahead.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: Threat To Capitalism
Campaign for America’s Future, June 11, 2008
—The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched “a sweeping national advocacy campaign … to defend and advance America’s free enterprise values in the face of rapid government growth and attacks by anti-business activists.” The Chamber doesn’t get it. They aren’t defending capitalism and free enterprise. They are all but destroying it.
A New New Deal; with Robert L. Borosage.
The Nation, January 12, 2009
—Sinking levees, collapsing bridges, broadband slower than our economic rivals. It’s time to put America back to work. Massive public investment will rebuild our people and our nation.
Good Building, Bad Building;
Campaign for America’s Future, Dec. 11, 2008
—China has opened a new subway system every year for the past six years. The U.S. has opened 40 new prisons and jails. Who’s setting up to lead in the 21st century?
Downsizing government to death
Los Angeles Times, July 20, 2008
—Last week, consumers were worried about salmonella in their fresh tomatoes. Before that, it was E. coli in their spinach. Something is wrong. Eating a salad is not supposed to be a high-risk activity.
Safe Toys, Edible Food, Smart Globalization
Campaign for America’s Future, June 20, 2008
—Why is it that people who question globalization are treated like Neanderthals?
CPAC: Conservatives Pout And Complain
TomPaine.com, March 05, 2007
—The first five minutes of every speech are appealing. The policies that follow are catastrophic. An ideology that disdains government is destined to govern badly.
BLOCK AND BLAME. The Conservative Strategy of Obstruction in the 110th Congress
—It’s like mugging the delivery person and then blaming the mail for being late.
Prisoners of the Census: Electoral and Financial Consequences of Counting Prisoners Where They Go, Not Where They Come From
With Peter Wagner, Pace Law Review, April 2005
—The U.S. Census counts people where they are locked up, not where they come from. The result distorts democracy. (People count in prison for purposes of political apportionment, but they can’t vote and they leave after an average of two years).
Racial Disparity in the Justice System: More than the sum of its parts
—Focus, the magazine of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, May 2004. (Now offline).
Lorton Closing Opens A Door for Reform
Washington Post, 2001.
—“At this juncture, we should not, out of habit, reconstruct a criminal justice system that weakens families, destroys communities and threatens public order. Instead, we should reconsider whether the right people are being locked up as well as the wisdom of sending inmates so far away from their families and their communities”
Politics and Irrelevance: Community Notification Statutes
Federal Sentencing Reporter, September/October 1997
—Community notification statutes are clear political winners, but their effect on neighborhoods is less certain. Notification creates administrative problems, debate over issues irrelevant to public safety, and distraction from efforts more likely to protect the community. (Prelude to Making Manna?).