Marlon Peterson: Incarceration, Redemption, and an Abolitionist's Freedom Song

Everything we were taught to believe about crime, justice, race, and gender needs to be criticized, says Marlon Peterson: We need to recenter humanity in accountability measures; we must allow room for various identities in criminal justice discourse. Formerly incarcerated author and activist Marlon Peterson is one of the many vanguards in changing the world we live in, and he documents it all in his new memoir Bird Uncaged.

Born and raised by Trinidadian parents in Brooklyn, NY, Peterson spent his childhood adjacent to ongoing city violence while simultaneously preaching the good word alongside his father, a devout Jehovah's Witness. His parents immigrated to the United States to achieve the long-desired American Dream, and Peterson too believed it was possible. But in the aftermath of physical and sexual trauma, Peterson made a series of choices that led to his participation in a robbery that resulted in two murders, granting him 10 years in prison at the age of 19. Spending his twenties incarcerated, Peterson completed his Associates Degree in Criminal Justice with Honors and immersed himself in anti-violence activism, education and prison abolition. In Bird Uncaged, Peterson exposes the brutality of incarceration and the hollowness of the American Dream. He encourages us all to reveal and break from the many cages — both physical and metaphorical — created and maintained by American society.

Join us as Marlon Peterson envisions a new world that focuses on healing instead of punishment, an end to mass incarceration, and a new vision of justice.


Marcus Books


Part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Image - Marlon Peterson
Marlon Peterson
Host, "Decarcerated" Podcast; Author, Bird Uncaged: An Abolitionist's Freedom Song
Image - Jamilah King
In Conversation with Jamilah King
Host, "The Mother Jones Podcast"; Race and Justice Reporter, Mother Jones