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“Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality”

"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 PerkinsNew 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. 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.

"Brilliant! The most powerful indictment of the prison industrial complex sustem I've yet come across. I'm in awe." – David Korten: Activist and 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 everthought there was something glamorous or romantic about life in the House of Numbers." – Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune.

"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." –Neva Welton: Co-author, Global Uprising, Confronting the Tyrannies of the 21st Century: Stories from a New Generation of Activists.

"In a field dominated by numbers and statistics, Exile Nation puts 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." – Sanho Tree: Director, The Drug Policy Project of the Institute for Policy 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." – Rick Doblin, Ph.D: Founder, Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies

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


Exclusive to Evolver & Reality Sandwich

The debut of…

Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality

The powerful new book by Charles Shaw

"There are those moments that change us, and then there are those moments when we realize that we have changed. This book is about both."

Evolver and Reality Sandwich are proud to present the debut of our exclusive new series, Charles Shaw's Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality. Exile Nation will appear in weekly excerpts throughout 2010.

Exile Nation is a work of "spiritual journalism" that grapples with the themes of drugs, prisons, politics and spirituality through Shaw's personal story. It is a memoir of his life as a writer, addict, activist, prisoner, and spiritual seeker, a mosaic of his descent into shadow, his personal reckoning, and the long slow crawl back out to reclaim his life, heal the past, and start over. Exile Nation is an archetypal story of self-discovery, a "Hero's Journey" metaphor for the political and spiritual awakening process that so many are experiencing at this crucial point in human evolution. In between the themes, it is an insider's look at the forgotten or excluded segments of our society, the disenfranchised lifestyles and subcultures existing in what Shaw calls the "exile nation."  They are those who have lost some or all of their ability to participate in the full opportunities offered by life in advanced industrial societies because of an arrest or conviction for a non-violent, drug-related, or "moral" offense, those who cannot participate in the credit economy, and those with lifestyle choices that involve radical politics and sexuality, cognitive liberty, and unorthodox spiritual and healing practices. Together they make up the new "evolutionary counterculture" of the most significant epoch in human history.

"The issues this book discusses are relevant now. The drug war is destabilizing major segments of the globe and threatening to collapse whole nations. The United States jails, imprisons, and “correctionally monitors” (supervision, probation, parole) more people than any other nation in the world, around 6 million, or 1 out of every 50 Americans.  Most are for non-violent drug offenses. This “correctional economy” which comprises the police, courts, and prisons, account for millions of jobs and billions of dollars. At the same time, state budgets are so overwhelmed they can’t afford to hold all the prisoners they have jammed into their systems like animals on a factory farm. Marijuana, on the verge of legalization, is the #1 cash crop in America. FDA-approved clinical trials of psychedelic therapies for some of life’s most debilitating illnesses are again underway after a 40-year lockdown, and alongside that, a shamanic revolution in consciousness is unfolding, reconnecting us with our spiritual selves and the earth that has supported us for so long. Surrounding all of this and providing context is the knowledge that we are in a time of profound and systemic change, everywhere: to the Earth and its ecosystem, to technology, to populations and politics, to energy, to consciousness, and to our very beings. The time is now!” (from the Introduction)

**Other endorsements and praise for Exile Nation from noted writers and activists**


NOTE: Exile Nation ran as an exclusive series on Reality Sandwich from December 2009 until December 2010. It was picked up for publication by Counterpoint/Soft Skull Press in mid-2011 and will be released in April of 2012. Due to contractual obligations, the online version of the book has been removed. The following outtake chapters and excerpts remain, exclusive to Reality Sandwich.  





The Evolver Light & Shadow Tour featuring Charles Shaw & Michael Garfield

Oct 1 – Nov 21st, 2010 beginning in Boulder, CO and ending in London, UK.



May 28 – Lightning in a Bottle – "Exile Nation: Drugs, Prisons, Politics & Spirituality -Charting the Spiritual and Political Awakening of the Burning Man or Neotribal subculture, and Giving Voice to the Lives of the Disenfranchised." Details TBA.

May 11 – Friendly Favors/Living Directory Speaker Series – Sergio Lub and The Friendly Favors/Living Directory Speaker Series present… "An Evening with Charles Shaw – Reading and Discussinghis book, 'Exile Nation' about the disaster that is the American Drug War and its self-perpetuating Prison Industry, radical politics and spirituality, Burning Man and other Neotribal subcultures, and psychedelic medicine therapies for addiction and PTSD." 6:00pm-9:00pm,United Earth Networks at the Craneway Center – 1414 Harbour Way South, Suite 1010, Richmond, CA 94804 (close to BART) Cost: $20 donation (or 20 Thank yous) and a dish to share. Make checks payable to the charity of our speaker's choice.

April 11th – San Francisco GreenFestival – "The Exile Nation Project: Writers evolving to meet new media paradigms." (w/Daniel Pinchbeck), 12:00pm. 

March 25 – Long Beach Evolver Spore – "The Future of Psychedelics" -7:30pm – 9:30pm, Location TBA (check page)

March 24 – Los Angeles Evolver Spore – "The Future of Psychedelics" -7:30pm – 9:30pm, West Hollywood, CA. Check link for location.

March 21 – Appearing on "Systemic Effect" with Virginia Paris, MAIN-FM 103.5 in Asheville, NC, 8-9 AM. Listen to show at

March 20 – Chicago Consciousness Cafe – Reading from and discussing "Exile Nation." 6:00pm – 9:00pm, Transamoeba, 1325 South Wabash, #101, Chicago, IL 60605. Free, donation requested.

 March 17 – Chicago Evolver Spore – "The Future of Psychedelics" – 7:30pm – 8:30pm, The Tonic Room, 2447 North Halsted St., Chicago IL, 60614-2403, Cost $5


Exile Nation and the "Unheard Voices" Project were made possible through a grant from the Tedworth Trust and the openDemocracy group. 

Cover design – Eartha Harris

Photography – Kristin Gorenflo/Serotonin Photography

Editorial assistance – Ken Jordan, Stephen Thomas, Neva Welton

Publicist – Kimberly Nichols, KNR, Inc.


Exile Nation copyright © 2005, 2009, 2010 Charles Shaw. All rights reserved.

Charles Shaw's work has appeared in Alternet, Alternative Press Review, Conscious Choice, Common Ground, Grist, Guardian UK, Guerrilla News Network, Huffington Post, In These Times, Newtopia, The New York Times, openDemocracy, Planetizen, Punk Planet, Reality Sandwich, San Diego Uptown News, Scoop, Shift, Truthout, The Witness, YES!, and Znet. He was a Contributing Author to the 2008 Shift Report from the Institute for Noetic Sciences, and in Planetizen's Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning (2007, Island Press). In 2009 he was recognized by the San Diego Press Club for excellence in journalism.

Charles is the Director of The Exile Nation Project: An Oral History of the War on Drugs, and Editor of the openDemocracy Drug & Criminal Justice Policy Forum and the  Dictionary of Ethical Politics, a collaborative project of Resurgence, openDemocracy, and the Tedworth Trust. He is the former Editorial Director of Conscious Enlightenment Publishing (Conscious Choice, Common Ground, Whole Life Times, and Seattle's Conscious Choice), the founder and publisher of Newtopia, former head writer for the nationally syndicated radio show Reality Checks, former Senior Staff Writer for The Next American City, and a Contributing Editor for Worldchanging.

A long-time activist and former official for the Green Party of the US,he is a native of Chicago who lives on the West Coast…for now. 

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