Brittany K. Barnett
Award-winning attorney, entrepreneur, and author of A Knock at Midnight
About Brittany K. Barnett
Brittany K. Barnett is an award-winning attorney and entrepreneur who advocates for transforming the criminal justice system and social impact investing. Barnett is responsible for securing freedom for myriad clients who were at one point serving life sentences for federal drug offenses, including seven clients who received executive clemency from President Barack Obama. She was a member of Alice Marie Johnson’s legal team in a case that eventually brought Kim Kardashian West to the Trump White House.
Notably, Brittany K. Barnett made headlines as part of the 90 Days of Freedom campaign, in which she helped secure freedom for 17 men serving life sentences for drugs in 90 days. Inspired by her own experience as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, Barnett founded two nonprofits: the Buried Alive Project, which attempts to dismantle life without parole sentences, and Girls Embracing Mothers, an organization that empowers girls with mothers behind bars.
In her new memoir, which was Amazon’s featured debut, A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom, Barnett tells both a coming-of-age story and a narrative of the uphill struggle to bring hope and change to our criminal justice system. As a young law student with her sights on corporate law, Barnett came across the case of Sharanda Jones, a single Black mother and business owner who was serving a life sentence without parole for a first-time drug offense.
Barnett was reminded of her own life as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother and the once-girlfriend of an abusive drug dealer, and saw how America’s war on drugs had taken yet another victim. After taking on Sharanda’s case, Barnett was activated and inspired to work pro bono cases to free clients in dire legal gridlock, leading her on a quest to give voice to those abandoned by the justice system.
Brittany K. Barnett’s work is multi-dimensional; in addition to freeing incarcerated individuals, she uses her deftness in the corporate world to nurture her clients’ entrepreneurial spirits and creative abilities to create social change. In addition to her two nonprofits, Barnett also founded XVI Capital Partners and Milena Reign, two social enterprises dedicated to showcasing the impact that formerly incarcerated people can have when they are able to not only survive, but thrive. A decorated attorney and activist, Brittany K. Barnett has been named one of America’s most Outstanding Young Lawyers by the American Bar Association, and was on the 2019 list of Essence’s “Woke 100.”
A New Voice for Criminal Justice Transformation
Brittany K. Barnett’s passion for criminal justice shines through her multiple roles as a lawyer, a non-profit founder, an entrepreneur, and an advocate. Barnett shares the story of the case that first compelled her to become active in social justice, her experience seeking freedom for incarcerated individuals, and her cutting-edge work that ensures not only that the wrongly imprisoned are freed, but that they thrive.
A Knock at Midnight
Brittany K. Barnett was still in law school when she found a case compelling enough to drag her focus from the world of corporate law. Sharanda Jones, a single Black mother and business owner who was serving a life without parole sentence for a first-time drug offense, reminded Barnett of her own life, including her formerly incarcerated mother and her experience as the once-girlfriend of an abusive drug dealer. Barnett shares how Jones’s case led her on an incredible journey for justice—one that took her from the courts to the White House and beyond in her quest to amplify the voices of those abandoned by the justice system, and give purpose to those who have escaped it.
Diversity and Inclusion in the Workplace
Brittany K. Barnett spent years building a successful career in the corporate world. However, the discrepancy of the number of men to women, particularly women of color, was glaring. In this inspiring and action-focused talk, Barnett enumerates not only how companies can improve their diversity and inclusion efforts, but also how increased diversity will benefit them in the long-term.
The Genius Behind Bars
Employment is crucial for formerly incarcerated people to thrive, but the unemployment rate for these willing workers is higher than any other demographic. At the same time, many formerly incarcerated people dedicated themselves to learning and preparing for entrepreneurship while doing their time. How can we give capital to this untapped source of entrepreneurship? As the founder of XVI Capital Partners and Milena Reign LLC, Brittany K. Barnett believes that tapping into the genius of the formerly incarcerated is key to diversifying both venture capital investment and the modern workforce. In this talk, she makes a strong case for this overlooked source for companies looking to expand their recruitment and their investment, with examples from her own experience as an entrepreneur, lawyer, and investor.
Entrepreneurship and Social Justice
Brittany K. Barnett is a multidimensional lawyer, advocate, and founder who is passionate about encouraging others to follow their dreams. She also believes firmly in tying together business and social enterprise. As the founder of two non-profits, the Buried Alive Project and Girls Embracing Mothers, as well as XVI Capital Partners and Milena Reign LLC, Barnett offers practical, on-the-ground advice to budding entrepreneurs, in both the social and business worlds, across all ages.
Praise for Brittany K. Barnett
Praise for A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom
A Knock at Midnight isn’t your ordinary memoir. It carries the force of urgent action, and it calls attention to sentencing laws that must be read to be believed. Most important, it bears the toil and triumph of freedom hard won. That’s a quality that readers will have a hard time taking for granted after reading these pages.— Houston Chronicle
For a young lawyer, Brittany Barnett has a lot of war stories. In A Knock at Midnight, Barnett’s engrossing memoir, most of the stories involve Black women who are casualties of the war on drugs. . . . [Barnett’s] vignettes about the lives of women in the ‘New Jim Crow’ era are powerful and devastating.— The Washington Post
Having worked side by side with Brittany on criminal justice reform for years, I knew about her heroic commitment to justice. I knew she was a brilliant attorney and advocate. I even knew that she was the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother. What I didn’t know before I read this book is that on top of everything else, Brittany is a first-rate storyteller. With heartfelt clarity and conviction, she delivers a powerful story of courage and hope, along with a good dose of the messy truth about our nation’s broken criminal justice system. America desperately needs stories just like this one. A Knock at Midnight is an essential book for our time, and Brittany K. Barnett is a star.— Van Jones, CEO of REFORM Alliance, CNN Host, and New York Times bestselling author
Barnett tells each client’s story fully, allowing readers to grasp the weight of years of incarceration and the impact of the War on Drugs on the Black community. Her writing captures both the precision of law and the emotion of seeking freedom. A riveting memoir of injustice, resilience, and hope.— Booklist (starred review)
Lawyer and activist Barnett weaves together memoir, biography, and legal drama in a powerful and moving story. . . . This is an essential read for anyone seeking to understand the devastating effects of mandatory drug sentencing and looking for inspiration to seek change.— Library Journal (Starred review)
A welcome new addition to . . . books about the critically flawed U.S. legal system . . . Considering her youthfulness, [Brittany] Barnett has accomplished more reform than most individuals could accomplish in two lifetimes.— Kirkus Reviews (Starred review)
A Knock at Midnight is a book that is just right for this smoldering moment, a memoir that offers an irresistible invitation to examine the evolution and the impact of injustice in America.— Michele Norris, contributing columnist at The Washington Post and founding director of The Race Card Project
Brittany’s passion, ambition, hard work, and commitment to excellence have produced an unparalleled record of success at a young age. I have been personally touched by her incredible dedication to advancing justice and her unwavering and selfless dedication to freedom. Brittany is an angel on earth, and it is time for the world to see the full span of her wings.— Sean “Diddy” Combs
A crusading lawyer battles unfair sentences meted out in the ‘war on drugs’ in this passionate memoir. . . . An engrossing legal drama complete with wrenching reversals and redemptions, this account richly humanizes defendants while incisively analyzing deep flaws in America’s justice system.— Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
Readers will root for the forceful, independent Elena, who will appeal to Maisie Dobbs fans. Perry knows how to ratchet up the international intrigue. . . . [A] promising series launch.— Publishers Weekly
Books by Brittany K. Barnett
Media About Brittany K. Barnett
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A Knock at Midnight
“With a penetrating honesty, Brittany K. Barnett masterfully unlocks the mysterious doors of the prison system, revealing a long tradition of racial injustice and inequality. In the spirit of great films like Ava DuVernay’s 13th, A Knock at Midnight is both an educational tool and a call to action that will leave readers enlightened and inspired for years to come.”—Shaka Senghor, author of Writing My Wrongs