A dramatic narrative account of the life of William Juneboy Outlaw III, whose journey from housing-project youth to ruthless gangland kingpin to change-making community advocate represents a vital next chapter in the ongoing conversation about race and social justice in America
When he was in his early twenties, William Juneboy Outlaw III was sentenced to eighty-five years in prison for homicide and armed assault. The sentence brought his brief but prolific criminal career as the head of a forty-member cocaine gang in New Haven, Connecticut, to a close. But behind bars, Outlaw quickly became a feared prison “shot caller” with 150 men under his sway.
Then everything changed: his original sentence was reduced by sixty years. At the same time, he was shipped to a series of the most notorious federal prisons in the country, where he endured long stints in solitary confinement—and where transformational relationships with a fellow inmate and a prison therapist made him realize that he wanted more for himself.
Upon his release, Outlaw took a job at Dunkin’ Donuts, volunteered in the New Haven community, and started to rebuild his life. He now is an award-winning community advocate, leading a team of former felons who negotiate truces between gangs on the very streets that he once terrorized. The homicide rate in New Haven has dropped 70 percent in the decade that he’s run the team—a drop as dramatic as in any city in the country.
Written with exclusive access to Outlaw himself, Charles Barber’s Citizen Outlaw is the unforgettable story of how a gang leader became the catalyst for one of the greatest civic crime reductions in America, and an inspiring argument for love and compassion in the face of insurmountable odds.
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About the Author
Charles Barber is a writer-in-residence at Wesleyan University and a lecturer in psychiatry at Yale. He has written widely on mental health and criminal justice issues, both in popular and scholarly publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Salon, The Nation, and Scientific American Mind. Barber has appeared on the BBC, CNN, CBS News, and NPR’s Fresh Air. He lives in Connecticut with his family.