Dedicated to reforming the criminal justice system,
Barnett’s passion came through Thursday morning during PLA’s first Big Ideas
session of the conference. “I want the world to know my clients, brilliant men
and women, not statistics,” said Barnett of her book Knock at Midnight: A
Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom. “This book is a love letter to them.”
Growing up, Barnett was a small-town country girl with big
city dreams. “I found a crack pipe in my mama’s purse when I was in the fourth
grade,” she said. “I wanted to fix her even as a child.” Ultimately, her
mother’s drug addiction led her to prison. “It was devastating for me and my
younger sister.” Visiting her mother in prison with plexiglass between, she was
struck by smaller lip prints on the glass left by another small visitor, a
vision that stays with and drives her forward today.
“Books were my escape; the library was my safe haven.” In
fact, she became an accountant because of a book featuring black people who
were successful in banking. “I wanted to be a lawyer, but I didn’t know any
lawyers.” That changed when she met a lawyer who worked in the same building
where Barnett worked as an accountant.
Story continues here...