Convicted (Book Review)

Marli Scarborough

5 Stars

December 7, 2017

If you pay attention to any kind of media, you’ve probably noticed a lot of tension and division in our country.  Even football isn’t immune to arguments about race and police and politics.  While a lot of the discussion seems like people just shouting at each other, I’ve read plenty of things that give a mature, Christ-centered perspective on some of the issues that I don’t understand well.  One of those things is the book Convicted: A Crooked Cop, An Innocent Man, And An Unlikely Journey Of Forgiveness And Friendship by Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins.  (Co-authored by Mark Tabb.)

What’s It About?
Convicted is about a white police officer who arrests an innocent black man, so it does talk about race.  However, it’s also a simple story of grace and forgiveness.  In 2006, Jameel McGee was arrested by Andrew Collins on a drug charge.  Although the arrest was based on a misunderstanding, Andrew Collins was more interested in locking up anyone who might be a drug dealer than in administering true justice, so he lied on the police report to make sure that Jameel McGee went to prison.  A few years later, Andrew Collins was caught lying on police reports and stealing money and evidence and went to prison himself.  Years after both of them got out of prison and moved on with their lives, the two men met and eventually became friends.

What Did I Learn?
First, I gained a new understanding of what people mean when they talk about “systemic racism.”  When I hear things like that I tend to be skeptical, but reading Jameel’s story helped me to see that even though he had done nothing wrong, his race put him in a position where it was easier for him to be arrested and convicted for a crime that he had nothing to do with.

Second, it showed me how the justice system failed to work the way it was intended to.  Our justice system is meant to keep innocent people from being convicted, but in Jameel’s case a few crooked people were able to manipulate the system and put him behind bars.  That leads me to my third and most important point.

The world is broken.  People are broken.  All people.  And the only thing that can fix it is Jesus.  Andrew Collins wore a badge and uniform that should have marked him as one of the “good guys,” yet his heart was full of selfishness and greed until he turned to Jesus.  And even though Jameel didn’t commit the crimes he was accused of, he had plenty of his own issues, and it took him even longer than Andrew to fully surrender his life to Jesus.

As the two men tell their story in alternate chapters, it becomes obvious that God was at work from the very beginning. Jameel was in prison for three years, and struggled to get back on his feet for years afterwards, all because Andrew unjustly arrested him.  And yet he was able to forgive Andrew – not just enough to tone down his anger, but enough that they were able to become true friends.

Why You Should Read It
In the end, although this book addresses a few social/political issues, it’s not about those issues.  It’s about how Jesus changes people.  Not laws, not education, not a perfectly worded tweet.  If you read this, you will at the very least see a story of two broken humans who were put back together by the grace of God.  At most, you may just see your own brokenness and your own need for the grace of God.

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my review.