NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Dr. Christian Bolden, associate professor in the acclaimed Criminology and Justice Department at Loyola University New Orleans, details theory, research, and his own personal journey from gangs to academic leadership in a groundbreaking new book, Out of the Red: My Life of Gangs, Prisons and Redemption.
Celebrated for its storytelling, Out of the Red is quickly becoming a primer for all those interested in the criminal justice system – from professionals and students to the general public. The book launches August 14 and will be used in classrooms across the country starting this fall.
“Students connect with personal stories. Academic books can sometimes be dry or daunting. I wanted to build a bridge there,” says Dr. Bolden, who wrote the book with the non-academic public and his undergraduate students especially in mind. “I have a rather unique story. This book is filled with research and theory, but it reads like an autobiography.”
Out of the Red outlines social forces at work in the path from poverty to gangs, juvenile delinquency, and mass incarceration and addresses systemic challenges impeding rehabilitation. Throughout the highly researched academic work, Dr. Bolden chronicles his own personal narrative.
As a professor, researcher and court expert, Dr. Bolden had put a lot of time and thought into the best way to reach students and truly help them understand the gang crisis and adverse elements of the criminal justice system, he says. Recognizing that students connect best with personal stories, he started with his own.
In Out of the Red, he shares his own journey from a childhood in harsh poverty to gang membership at 14 and incarceration in adult prison at 17 – just as the gang situation in his hometown of San Antonio exploded from small time to bigtime, putting him at the center of a crisis.
“In 1988, San Antonio had one drive-by shooting. By 1993, the city saw more than 1,200. In eight years, Texas went from 30 to 110 prisons and filled them all with people,” says Dr. Bolden, whose expertise has been employed by FBI researchers at Quantico.
Out of the Red interweaves Dr. Bolden’s personal story with interviews with 41 former gang members in San Antonio, while instilling theory and lessons about criminal justice and laying bare systemic flaws.
Ultimately, Out of the Red is a story of hope. The third and last part of Dr. Bolden’s book addresses issues related to re-entry – looking closely at barriers to rehabilitation and how he personally overcame them to become who he is today. Having received the confidence and encouragement of others, Dr. Bolden says he is a big believer in “building systems that offer a hand up, not a hand out.”
“As a book, it’s transformative. I’ve read so much from researchers who guess at what’s going on, at motives and facts,” said Loyola New Orleans President Tania Tetlow, a legal scholar on race and criminal justice. “The undeniable reality of Dr. Bolden’s experience turns all that on its head. It makes me realize how rare it is that we really listen to those that we hypothesize about.”
“What I found most engaging about Out of the Red was thinking through how a student would read this book,” says Loyola criminology professor Ronal Serpas, a former superintendent of the New Orleans and Nashville Police Departments and founding Co-Chair of Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, a collaborative of the Brennan Center and the NYU-School of Law.
“To read about theory is in itself meaningful – to see those theories come to life on the pages of Dr. Bolden’s life – stunning. And to do both, in one text, priceless.