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The Exile Nation Project - Interview with Mary Barr (Pt. II)

Part II of the Exile Nation Project's interview with former crack cocaine addict and prostitute Mary Barr, who now works as a lecturer at John Jay College of Law.

The Land of the Free punishes or imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation. This collection of testimonials from criminal offenders, family members, and experts on America's criminal justice system puts a human face on the millions of Americans subjugated by the US Government's 40 year, one trillion dollar social catastrophe: The War on Drugs; a failed policy underscored by fear, politics, racial prejudice and intolerance in a public atmosphere of "out of sight, out of mind."

This interview is #33 of 100 In the Exile Nation Project's archive.

Interviews 1-31 can also be found on Vimeo.


Mary Barr is a former crack cocaine addict and prostitute who now works as a lecturer at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and as an advocate for addicts and sex workers.

During Mary's time on the streets, she was arrested 50 times in 5 years, beaten, stabbed, raped, and left for dead. All the while, she was battling a crippling addiction, which eventually resulted in the loss of her children to Child Protective Services.

A chance encounter with a social worker at Riker's Island Prison opened the door to her recovery when she was told, simply, "you don't have to live like this anymore."

In this two-part interview, Mary takes us on a harrowing journey through her life, recounting in vivid and brutally honest detail her descent into addiction, the hell she faced being forced to sell herself, and the indomitable strength she pulled upon to push her way out of the life and begin again.

Missed Part I of Mary's interview? Go here.

About the author

Charles Shaw is an award-winning journalist, editor and filmmaker, and the author of the critically-acclaimed memoir Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality. He is currently working on a new film called I’m Still Here, a documentary on Trauma and Healing that will be released in 2015.

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