The murder occurred in 2004, only minutes from our home on the south end of Nashville. We followed it in the news, riveted by the story of a young female perpetrator caught in a web of drugs, abuse, and sex trafficking.
She was tried a few years later and given a life sentence. I had no idea my own story would eventually tie in with hers--through the prosecutor who denied her appeal.
Last year, I was connected with Preston Shipp, former assistant attorney general for the state of Tennessee. He is a highly competent prosecutor and writer, but he was unable to tackle a full book amidst his current obligations as senior policy adviser for CFSY (Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth).
I stepped in. Spent four days hearing his story and taking notes. Wrote a rough draft.
And he then did the polishing to make the story his own.
This is a story to be read by everyone. Preston's life was turned upside down when the young woman whose appeal he denied became a friend as he taught her in the Tennessee Prison for Women. He realized she was worthy of redemption. She, and many others like her, were candidates for restorative justice instead of the punitive justice our system demands. His career, his faith, and his personal encounters all came into question as he reconsidered his years of locking away faceless perpetrators.
Preston's story is powerful and challenging. I was honored to have a part in his book, Confessions of a Former Prosecutor, available in April 2024.
Preston is no longer a prosecutor. Regardless, he is a man who considers all sides, listens patiently with an open mind, then pounces on flaws in an argument. He pounced on the flaws in his own thinking--thus, the publication of this book--and now advocates fiercely for the lives of those incarcerated as youth. He is pictured above with Eric Alexander, one such man who was freed and now spends his time helping others.
This is a hard-hitting story of redemption for those who are locked behind bars--and for one man who passed the bar exam.