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“…  this book will inspire you to view all people through the lens of empathy and compassion …”

~ book foreword by Susan Sarandon

The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons by Dr. Betty Gilmore and Nanon M. Williams sheds light on the widespread impact of extreme isolation experienced by thousands of incarcerated individuals in Texas prisons — many of whom will be integrated back into society. This book presents an in-depth view of the Texas prison system with a specific focus on death row and solitary confinement. The impact of living in severely restrictive conditions is examined through a multi-disciplinary lens that incorporates scientific research and expert opinion and includes powerful narratives from men who have been incarcerated for ten or more years and the people that surround them. Factors such as childhood history, attachment, biology, poverty, race and other social influences are explored in relation to the events that led up to incarceration and the subsequent ability to obtain fair treatment throughout the legal process.

In-depth stories of trauma, survival and growth guides readers through the experiences of these men, and the efforts made to preserve their own dignity in the face of adversity.

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Advance Praise for The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons

Dr. Betty Gilmore of Southern Methodist University and Nanon Williams, a former death row inmate, have combined their expertise and personal knowledge to produce a most important book on solitary confinement in American prisons. This book provides valuable insights as we strive to bring systemic change to the prison industrial complex so that it is not only more humane in its treatment of incarcerated individuals, but also more effective in its efforts of rehabilitation so that these individuals may become productive members of society. ~ David Atwood, founder of Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and author of Detour to Death Row

The Darkest Hour is a must-read for all who are concerned about the effects extreme isolation in Texas prisons has on those who are incarcerated. The book highlights the particular horrors for those who are incarcerated as they await execution, shedding light on the inhumanity that impacts the inmates, guards and the families of all involved. This book will change the way you think about crime and punishment. ~ Dr. Roger C. Barnes, Professor of Sociology, University of the Incarnate Word

It has been pointed out that more can be learned about a society from the way it treats its prisoners than the way it treats those on the outside. The cruelty and inhumanity of death row can easily be described to those who will never directly experience it—what is far more difficult is to enable it to be felt, and that is what these stories achieve. This book poses a deep and unsettling question to each of us: What would we lose by treating even the worst offenders as human beings? The answer that emerges from The Darkest Hour is shocking and profound: it is our ability to silence our own compassion, to blind ourselves to what we are doing to others, and to pretend that we have acted morally and justly. Yet in doing so, we cause untold suffering not only to prisoners but also to the victims and families, to the entire legal system, to our capacity for justice, and to the culture and society within which we live. This book opens our hearts and changes the way we think. ~ Kenneth Cloke, former judge, mediator and author of Conflict Revolution: Mediating Evil, War, Injustice and Terrorism

This book is very important because it puts a face on the injustice that is going on in the prison system and exposes what is occurring. This work makes people realize that each individual is a human being. They are someone’s brother, sister, mother, father or best friend. These stories need to be told, and the public needs to understand what is being done in the name of justice. ~ Anthony Graves, the 12th person in Texas to be exonerated after spending 12.5 years on death row and 18 years incarcerated.  Mr. Graves is also a motivational speaker, the founder of Anthony Believes, and co-host of The Prison Radio Show on Kpft 90.1.

Relegated to remote locations, surrounded by thick windowless walls and abysmal living conditions, America’s 3,200 death row inmates are the easiest group of people to think and care nothing about. But major human rights violations are being committed against them daily. Even worse, it’s being done in silence. Except in this case. Thankfully, this work sheds light on the the fact that all people are entitled to protection and dignity, regardless of whatever terrible, even horrific, things they may have done — or, sometimes, not done. This work also underscores the one essential truth of all human rights work: That there is no such thing as a lesser person. ~ Dr. Rick Halperin, director of the Embrey Human Rights Program at Southern Methodist University and three-time board chair of Amnesty International USA

The Darkest Hour brings to light the unspeakable abuses that occur in the stark solitary confinement of Texas’ Death Row. The stories of these men expose the inhumanity of a justice system that places them in conditions well known to cause immense pain, mental illness and suicide. The Darkest Hour reminds us of our humanity, and the urgent need to reconsider the punishments meted in our name. ~ Terry A. Kupers, M.D., M.S.P., psychiatrist and author of Prison Madness: The Mental Health Crisis Behind Bars and What We Must Do About It

The Darkest Hour: Shedding Light on the Impact of Isolation and Death Row in Texas Prisons by Dr. Betty Gilmore and Nanon M. Williams provides a much needed, critical examination of the impact of solitary confinement on human lives. In a unique and scholarly presentation, the authors have tackled the complexity of ascribing linkages between the isolation of a human being in restricted space under conditions of cognitive, sensory and physical deprivation and severe psychological outcomes. As the authors rightfully emphasize, the frequency and severity of isolation-linked trauma must be understood within the context of a constellation of developmental history, socio-economic, psycho-social and neurocognitive factors in order to truly understand, in detail, the excruciating proximal and distal outcomes of solitary confinement. This work holds promise in adding to the extant knowledge based relevant to PTSD and its various manifestations across different traumatic events. ~ G. Reid Lyon, Ph.D., Distinguished Scientist in Cognition and Neuroscience, University of Texas, Dallas, and emeritus professor, Southern Methodist University

Psychologist Dr. Betty Gilmore and Nanon Williams, a former death row inmate, bridge academic expertise and personal experience to bring awareness to the extreme psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual impact of isolation and living under a death sentence in Texas prisons. The inclusion of narratives from individuals who have survived death row, as well as those who have not, bring the readers into the story, touching a place deep within the human spirit that will most certainly foster a sense of compassion, while inspiring them to make an informed decision and to initiate meaningful discourse about human rights issues. ~ Sister Helen PreJean is the author of The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions and the national best-seller Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and spawned an Oscar-winning movie and an internationally-acclaimed opera.

People in our prisons are often the most overlooked members of our society. They are hidden away from view, and we know little about what they are thinking and doing. This book is a revealing examination of the experience of death row, and offers surprising insights into the attempts of these inmates to live meaningful lives under desperate circumstances. Readers will come away from this book thinking of the possibilities of redemption in this population. ~ Dr. Richard Tedeschi, Professor of Psychology, UNC Charlotte

In The Darkest Hour, Betty Gilmore and Nanon Williams take us into the depths of the darkest part of the darkest institution in our country—the death rows and solitary confinement units of our nation’s penitentiaries. They bring us the personal stories of those whose lives have led them to this horror, and they help us experience, just a little bit, what it is like to be there. They also explore the social policies and socio-economic factors that create this experience. Gilmore and Williams face the systemic inhumanity that only humans seem to exhibit, and they challenge us to do better by the people we cast out, reject, and often murder. But they do this without sentimentality, anger, or righteousness. They leave the reader to find their own reactions without prescribing for us what they should be. This is a beautiful, moving, clear-headed, and important book. Easy to read, but not easy to accept. It was act of courage to write, and it behooves all of us to read it. ~ Bernie Mayer, Ph.D.  Professor of Dispute Resolution, The Werner Institute, Creighton University

This book is essential reading for every American, and for anyone who wants to understand how the death penalty really works in the U.S. today. Nanon Williams and Betty Gilmore share powerful insights into the lives of people on death row, the interlocking systems that put them there, and the urgency of finding more effective and meaningful ways of responding to violent crime. ~ Dr. Lisa Guenther, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Vanderbilt University and author of Solitary Confinement: Social Death and Its Afterlives