"EXILE NATION tells the dirty story none of us really wants to hear. But we all should be listening. Author Charles Shaw "did time" in prison and lived to write about it. The antiquated and terrible system he describes is Dickensian. Like Dickens, Shaw offers a metaphor for many of the ills that infect our economy and society. And screams for change." – John Perkins: New York Times best-selling author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman and Hoodwinked.

"I find Charles Shaw to be a man of integrity and passion devoted to seeing the reality of our times and to doing whatever he can to be of use in their transformation. His record as a spiritual journalist is an excellent one; he writes with elegance and ferocity as well as deep understanding of the issues. He is currently engaged about his own experiences as a political activist, prisoner, and spiritual seeker, and his desire to reach out and give voice to others so affected, what he calls the "exile nation." I have read his work and find it candid and exciting, with the capacity to reach and shape many minds…a man on a profound journey, with a message that resonates for our times." Andrew Harvey: Author, Scholar and Founder of the Institute for Sacred Activism. 

"Words escape me. Such an incredible story so brilliantly told. Powerful stuff. Once I started Chapter 1 I couldn't stop even though that was not how I intended to spend my evening. Brilliant. The most powerful indictment of the prison industrial complex system I've yet come across. I'm in awe." – David Korten: Activist, Author – When Corporations Rule The World  and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.


"Writer and activist Charles Shaw's extraordinary Exile Nation is now online, a new book that recounts his fraught journey through Illinois' penal system after a drug-possession bust. In case you ever thought there was something glamorous or romantic about life in the House of Numbers." – Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune.

"The Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies is pleased to endorse the Exile Nation "Unheard Voices" Project.  Since this is one of the most interdisciplinary problems facing our society, it is imperative that a wide range of voices be heard from.  In a field dominated by numbers and statistics, this project will put a human face on the consequences of our failed drug policy.  These lives are not squandered by necessity, but by political choice and accompanying neglect.  Humanizing these statistics is a vital prerequisite to changing our policies. – Sanho Tree: Director, The Drug Policy Project of the Institute for Policy Studies

"The Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) supports the efforts of the Exile Nation "Unheard Voices" Project  to bring to the table a rational, humane, and sane perspective on international drug policy. For more than 40 years,  as a result of the backlash to the creative turmoil of the 1960s,  vital research into the healing properties of various psychedelic drugs and marijuana was all but non-existent.  Draconian drug policies, which relied on the generation of fear to justify throwing ever larger numbers of drug users and dealers into prison for ever longer periods of time, required risk amplification for drugs that had been criminalized, resulting in a harm maximization policy. Research into  beneficial uses of Schedule 1 drugs was suppressed, to keep the "Just Say No" message simple, one-sided, and fundamentally distorted. Nevertheless, starting small 20 years ago, regulators at the FDA have been gradually putting science over drug war politics in regards to reopening the doors to psychedelic and medical marijuana research. MAPS is currently involved in a series of renewed, government-sanctioned, clinical studies of psychedelic drugs taking place all over the world. On the other hand, medical marijuana research is still fundamentally obstructed by the Drug Enforcement Administration's protection of the federal monopoly on the supply of marijuana that can be used in FDA studies. It is only through the committed work of activists and policy reformers like Charles Shaw that we are able to get the new stories of responsible drug policy out to the public-at-large. We hope that this project is able to come to full fruition and that these people are able to tell their stories. Drugs will always have risks and benefits, there is no policy that eliminates all problems. But it would be difficult to do worse than we are now doing." – Rick Doblin, Ph.D: Founder, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

"Seeing as our criminal justice system in the United States is dysfunctional—and that's putting it politely—the arrival of Charles Shaw's book Exile Nation is a welcome addition to the growing chorus of voices calling for reform of the largest working railroad in America: the criminal justice system." – Kevin Danaher, Ph.D: Co-Founder, Global Exchange & Green Festivals

"Charles Shaw brings a rare combination of lived experience, compassion, and the necessary skill set to make a real difference in drug and criminal justice policy reform. His journey from drug war prisoner to drug war activist has shaped his gritty and authentic-story-telling abilities and writing style with a natural organizing strategy that puts people first. I fully endorse this project with Charles Shaw and openDemocracy at the helm." –Neva Welton:  Co-author,  Global Uprising, Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century: Stories from a New Generation of Activists, and Speaking and Listening from the Heart: A Facilitators Handbook 

"Cities for Progress, a project based at the Institute for Policy Studies, supports Exile Nation and the "Unheard Voices" Project. Cities for Progress works on ending income inequality in urban areas in the United States. Because of injustices in the criminal justice system, poverty becomes even more entrenched in our vulnerable communities, hitting the poorest the hardest. Until these injustices are exposed, the problem of persistent and increasing poverty in this country will continue. Cities for Progress sees Exile Nation as a potentially vital piece in this exposition. We look forward to the work that an adequately funded project such as this can produce." – Karen Dolan: Director, Cities for Peace.

"I am without words to adequately describe how I feel. Sickness, fear, disgust, despair, are the closest I can come. I've been in jail several times, never more than a couple days, but every time experiencing the holding cell, a couple times disappearing into the mysterious door behind the judge where the system begins. What you've written rings depressingly true. The same question ran through my mind reading your work that ran through my mind when i was in custody: "how can people do this to each other?  How can people do this to each other? The fear I feel reading your work is on more than one level: that the experience is so horrible i'm somehow irrationally afraid of being snatched off the street and thrown back into the same thing; that our nation has created such a large population of people who know this nightmare first-hand and repeatedly." – Mike Ferner, Veterans For Peace. 

"As a therapist for addicts and for men incarcerated in the California penal system, I supports the efforts of the Exile Nation "Unheard Voices" Project to give voice to the struggles these disenfranchised men have experienced as members of the American underclass. So many suffer from addiction and abuse, and yet, their lives are invisible to the society that surrounds them. and healing and ‘rehabilitation’ are not offered to them. It is my hope that this project brings their suffering into the light, and helps us craft a new conversation about just what a ‘criminal’ is, and just what ‘criminal justice’ is." – Kristin Gorenflo, Phd, (candidate): addiction specialist

"In my capacity as founder of a Chicago-area reform organization called Green Street Project, I sought the perspective of Charles Shaw.  As most progressives know, the drug war creates an epidemic of poverty.  My organization has worked in Chicago neighborhoods where 70% of the males have felony records, often for selling drugs when they were mere children.  Because of his experiences, Charles possesses the curiosity and perspective to write the humanitarian and policy analysis of our generation.  I soon learned why a civic leader so highly recommended Charles to me as a leader in sustainable culture and media matters. Through his advice, a professional partnership and an eventual friendship, I have come to know Charles as someone authentically living a bold life in pursuit of self-awareness and social change. His voracious appetite and kind sensitivities for sociological matters make me pay attention to his prolific writings; his blogs and commentaries top my lists of must-reads I highly recommend that his pursuit gets the support it needs to come to fruition.  I can think of no one better than Charles Shaw to take on this noble cause." – Todd McMeen: Executive Director, Green Street Project, a public/private sector community building initiative led by the City of Chicago and Green Street

"Luckily, not too many of us will ever spend any time in prison, but for anyone wondering what it’s like to be housed by the Illinois Department of Corrections, Charles Shaw’s book is as close a glimpse as you can get—or would want. And, although the book begins with Shaw’s journey from Cook County jail, to Stateville and ultimately to the East Moline Correctional Center, it’s anything but just another story about prison." – James Faber: Editor, Mindful Metropolis (formerly Conscious Choice). 

"Charles was a drug user and also a drug activist. He felt the war on drugs was unjust and a waste of money. Like me, he used drugs for healing and spiritual purposes. Unlike me, he got busted. I haven’t read the whole book yet, I just read chapter two, part one today. I read chapter one a month ago, and waited a month for two. He is releasing it chapter at a time on Reality Sandwich. Every day of the month that I waited for chapter two, I thought about it at least daily. His writing is so gripping, the story so gritty and the message so intensely profound, that I just can’t get enough of it! If it stays this good, it might end up being my favorite book ever!" – Virginia Paris, activist and author of the Girls Chasing Frogs blog.