A renowned judge wonders: What would criminal justice look like if we put respect at the center?
The Black and Latina daughter of a working-class family, Victoria Pratt learned to treat everyone with dignity, no matter their background. When she became Newark Municipal Court’s chief judge, she knew well the inequities that poor, mentally ill, Black, and brown people faced in the criminal justice system. Pratt’s reforms transformed her courtroom into a place for problem-solving and a resource for healing. She assigned essays to defendants so that the court could understand their hardships and kept people out of jail through alternative sentencing and nonprofit partnerships. She became the judge of second chances, because she knew too few get a first one.
With a foreword from Senator Cory Booker, The Power of Dignity shows how we can transform courtrooms, neighborhoods, and our nation to support the vulnerable and heal community rifts. That’s the power of dignity.
About the Author
The Honorable Victoria Pratt served as the chief judge of the Newark Municipal Court, is a professor at the Rutgers Newark School of Criminal Justice, and has taught at the Rutgers School of Law. Her TED talk, “How Judges Can Show Respect,” has been viewed over thirty million times. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.
“Judge Pratt is a remarkable and powerful storyteller. The stories of courtroom cases in these pages are gripping, and they add up to something bigger: Pratt’s critical message about transforming our criminal justice system. If you believe in achieving ‘liberty and justice for all,’ read this book.”—Sunny Hostin, Emmy-winning co-host of The View and New York Times bestselling author of Summer on the Bluffs
"Judge Pratt’s extraordinary approach for restoring humanity to the justice system is applicable to business, education, government, and our personal lives. You don’t just read this book—you take action!"—Marie Forleo, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything is Figureoutable
"Written with both precision and compassion, The Power of Dignity offers readers an important and rare gift: the opportunity to get inside the mind of a judge as she wrestles with hard cases and no-win situations. If every judge were Victoria Pratt, our criminal courts would be the envy of the world.”
—Greg Berman, Former Executive Director, Center for Court Innovation
“Judge Pratt’s book is profoundly honest, compelling, and illuminating. It summons all of us, particularly people of conscience, to enact change in our communities.” —Ryan Haygood, President & CEO, New Jersey Institute for Social Justice
"The Power of Dignity is a profoundly important book written by a profoundly important advocate for restorative justice. Judge Pratt reimagines our justice system, and offers an essential and timely narrative about the transcendent power of centering human dignity and the meaning of justice itself." —Dahlia Lithwick, Slate Senior Editor and Amicus podcast host
"Judge Pratt's book exposes the many ways that the American criminal court system doubly punishes those who are already society's most vulnerable. Her solutions are deceptively simple and overwhelmingly necessary. Written with true care and compassion, this is an essential book for healing our broken justice system." —Anthony Ray Hinton, New York Times-bestselling author of The Sun Does Shine