Signed first edition of Bending the Arc: My Journey from Prison to Politics by Keeda J Haynes
Just weeks after graduating from the Dean's List from Tennessee State University, Keeda Haynes became an inmate at Alderson Federal Prison Camp, all for a crime she didn't commit. This was never meant to be her story. Her childhood was spent in church, band practice, and Girl Scouts meetings, and when she enrolled at TSU, the path ahead had seemed bright. Then one day her boyfriend had asked for a simple favor, to sign to receive some FedEx packages-packages she did not know were filled with marijuana. Suddenly she found herself in court and sentenced to seven years in prison-the same sentence she'd would have been handed if she had dealt the drugs herself. The experience of this injustice led her to question the foundations of her faith, and to confront a criminal justice system filled with race and class inequities-but instead of succumbing to despair and becoming yet another victim of our failed national "War on Drugs," she decided to dedicate her life toward making our justice system truly just. Even after she was released, she knew there was still so much freedom left to fight for. Haynes attended law school at night and became a public defender. She went on to become a criminal justice reform advocate supporting formerly incarcerated women, and in 2020 she became a candidate hoping to become the first Black woman to represent Tennessee in Congress. When she fights against mandatory minimum sentencing laws, advocates for successful transitions for those who have served their time, and seeks alternative sentencing for parents to help keep families together, she draws from her own personal experiences with how our unequal justice system treats the most vulnerable. Through her unique perspective and passionate activism, she now tells her story to help us reshape our communities into a true second chance culture. What she's learned firsthand-slowly, painfully-is that our future does not have to be defined by our past. And she knows that we're all ready for the long fight towards justice.