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Law cannot stand aside from the social changes around it.

—William J. Brennan

The Worst Thing We’ve Ever Done is the story of redemption—my own—for the uninformed role I played in the conviction of a Black revolutionary, and Frederick Muhammed Burton's, the convicted man whose fifty years in prison and false conviction are still the subject of appeals. My eyes have been opened in unexpected ways, as have the eyes of many readers who have found my story compelling. Many have asked what they can do.

Frederick Burton 2020

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Frederick Burton 1970

Inform. Educate. Support. Advocate.

Though there are many individuals and groups committed to criminal justice reform, the organizations listed here have informed my book, inspired my advocacy, and deserve your support.


The Marshall Project 

A nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. 

Innocence Project

The Innocence Project works to free the innocent, prevent wrongful convictions, and create fair, compassionate, and equitable systems of justice for everyone.

Pennsylvania Prison Society

The PA Prison Society is an unbiased, expert source of information on Pennsylvania prisons, promoting health, safety, and dignity for people behind bars.


FAMM’s mission is to create a more fair and effective justice system that respects our American values of individual accountability and dignity while keeping our communities safe.

The Equal Justice Initiative 

EJI is committed to ending mass incarceration and excessive punishment in the United States, to challenging racial and economic injustice, and to protecting basic human rights for the most vulnerable people in American society.

The National Registry of Exonerations 

Provides comprehensive information about the exonerations of innocent criminal defendants in order to prevent future false convictions by learning from past errors.

The Sentencing Project

The Sentencing Project advocates for effective and humane responses to crime that minimize imprisonment and criminalization of youth and adults by promoting racial, ethnic, economic, and gender justice.

Exonerated Nation

Exonerated Nation's mission is to meet the immediate needs of exonerees by helping to heal the debilitating spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical effects of being wrongfully incarcerated, and to advocate for policy change for restoration and the righting of wrongs.

Second Chance Initiatives

As we wait for the indifferent wheels of justice to acknowledge Mr. Burton’s plight, state legislatures across the country are considering "second look"sentencing laws that can grant individuals serving extreme sentences pathways to parole, reduced sentencing, and even release.


What it is:

Second look sentencing laws grant an individual serving an extreme sentence the opportunity to have their sentence reviewed and potentially be released if the person has successfully rehabilitated themselves after a defined period (e.g., 10 or 15 years). A judge or sentencing review board (parole board, indeterminate sentence board, etc.) may reduce a sentence or release an individual.


Why do we need it?

  • 1.5 million people incarcerated in state and federal prison.

  • 53,920 people serving life without parole sentences.

  • 1 in 7 people in prison are serving a life sentence or a “virtual” life sentence of 50 years or more.

  • 17 states plus the federal government have no parole system in place.

How it works:

Step 1:

A judge sentences John Doe to 30 years in prison.

Step 2:

John Doe successfully completes rehabilitative programming in prison and has few disciplinary infractions.


Step 3:

After 10 years of incarceration, John becomes eligible to have his sentence reviewed. This can be done through a petition to the court or eligibility to appear before parole board or discretionary release panel.

Step 4:

The court or review board considers changes in John’s life, including behavior in prison, participation in programming, maturation, as well as input from stakeholders such as the prosecuting attorney, victims, and prison staff.

Step 5:

The court or review board determines whether or not John remains a public safety risk and whether the original sentence advances the interest of justice. John can then have his sentence reduced or be released and sent home immediately, often under supervision.

Step 6:

John is released from prison—saving himself, his family, and taxpayers the high economic and social costs of his excessive sentence.


Graphic reproduced courtesy of

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