Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption Book Reflection


Picking Cotton: Our Memoir of Injustice and Redemption Book Reflection Paper 

For this class, students are required to write a book reflection of the non-fiction book, Picking Cotton by Erin Torneo, Jennifer Thompson-Cannino, and Ronald Cotton. The purpose of reading the book is for students to think critically and integrate criminal justice and psychology. 

INSTRUCTIONS: Please refer to the next pages for tips about how to write a good book review. Simply writing about what the book is about is NOT sufficient. Below are a list of prompts to help you get started. Please note that these questions are not meant to be an exhaustive list of question to consider when writing your reflection; they are simply prompts to help you start writing. 

1.) While reading the book, you may want to consider what you already know about the topic from past experience, research, or courses. This will allow you to better gauge how the book has shaped your opinion about this topic. What is the author’s main goal in writing this book? Explain the background of an event. Is the author trying to raise awareness about a particular issue? What are the author’s main points? What kind of evidence does the author provide to make her points? How convincing is this evidence? 

2.) What was the book about? Please provide a brief summary of the book. 

3.) What did you find most interesting about this book? 

4.) What parts of the book did you agree with (if any) and why do you agree? 

5.) What parts of the book did you disagree with (if any) and why do you disagree? 

6.) Is there anything that you think could have made this documentary better? 

7.) How do the issues and themes discussed in the book relate to class materials (i.e. 

textbook reading, lectures, class discussions, etc.)? 

8.) What did you learn from this book? 

9.) How has this book shaped your view on the issues discussed? 

10.) What are some policy and practice implications of the information discussed in this book? In other words, what can policymakers, criminal justice practitioners, the legislature, or the public in general do to fix the issue(s) discussed? 

Additional specific questions: 

Criminal Justice Related 

• Discuss some of the details from the trial, including the outcome. For example, did it take long for the jury to deliberate and reach a verdict? What was the verdict? Did Ronald Cotton plead guilty or not guilty? After reading the first part, “Jennifer’s Story,” did you believe Ronald Cotton was guilty? Why or why not? This are only suggestions for questions to answer regarding details from the trial. Feel free to elaborate in more detail, and answer other aspects pertaining to the trial. 

• Were you surprised by what happened at Ronald’s second trial? How did you feel when Jennifer did not recognize Bobby Poole? How did respond/feel when Ronald was convicted a second time? 

• Throughout, Ronald describes the challenges of life in prison as an innocent man. He writes, “Put a man in a cage with beasts and throw away the key, and it’s usually not very long before he man is a beast himself.” In what ways does this apply to Ronald’s incarceration? What do you think sustained Ronald while he was in prison? 

• What role does the act of asking for forgiveness play in the book? What about the act of granting forgiveness? Were you surprised that Jennifer asked to be forgiven for her mistakes? Were you surprised that Ronald chose to forgive her? What about Jennifer’s choice to forgive Bobby Poole? 

• Explain the disadvantages of eyewitness testimony in police investigations and in court testimony. Provide three examples from the book. 

• Explain how racial discrimination affected Ronald Cotton’s wrongful conviction. 

• This book highlighted the inherent flaws in the criminal justice system. How would modern forensic techniques ensure a fair trial for Ronald Cotton if the crime had occurred ten years later? Use three examples from the book. 

Psychology Related 

• How do you feel about reliability of eyewitness testimony after reading Picking Cotton? Did Picking Cotton change any of your opinions about the judicial system? 

• In Picking Cotton, Jennifer comes to learn that memory can be “contaminated.” What actions by investigators inadvertently led to this? Have you ever had a memory that proved unreliable or false? 

• According to research, what are the best practices for eyewitness identification procedures? 


§ Minimum of 3-4 pages (not including the title page and reference page) 

§ APA Format (See http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/

§ Times New Roman/size 12 font 

§ 1 inch margins 

§ Body: double spaced § Use sub headers 


§ In addition to the Picking Cotton novel and the required Criminal Justice course textbook, you are required to use at least one (1) additional scholarly sources. You must cite your sources in-text and on the references page. 

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