Almost Innocent | Shanti Brien


On this episode of About Your Mother, we meet Shanti Brien, who has spent her career fighting for justice. Often, taking on the most complex cases where the rate of success is meager. When her husband’s company was under investigation, her career and personal life collided.

Shanti Brien is a litigator and author. She is also the co-founder of Fogbreak Justice and an educator and consultant for criminal justice reform. Her book, Almost Innocent, explores her work for clients, as well as her personal experience when the criminal justice landed on her front door. Listen to how Shanti expresses her grief with regards to the current injustices that are happening in the criminal justice system:
“How is there not more outrage in the injustices that we are letting happen in our name? I’m trying to create a movement of radical empathy for people that are in prison and for people who aren’t in prison but they’re caught up in the criminal justice system. Sharing stories – that are in my book – is about creating this sense that we really are all in this together. Criminal justice is actually impacting us all. It might be your son, or your nephew.”
– Shanti Brien
If you are interested in Shanti’s new book, you can order Almost Innocent on Amazon Books today!

Reflections of the Mother

Shanti was raised by a single mom due to an absent father. While there aren’t specific ways this affected her, she continues to be introspective and discover how this experience shaped her as a person.


One thing that struck her most was a sense of abandonment from her father. This feeling translated to wanting to please her mother, and she never wanted to be a demand or a burden.
“I wanted to please my mother so much. I wanted to be such a good, not just a good girl, easy, and wanting to be easy. So I never wanted to be a demand on her. I wanted to be good.”
– Shanti Brien 
Witnessing her mother raise three people by herself left an impact.
“She basically had three kids. As a single mom, she worked two jobs. She worked her ass off. She’s just an amazing, hard-working person.” – Shanti Brien

Life Can Be Hard

“We realize the way we were raised influences the mother that we become or the things that we have to face and undo.”
Jennifer Griffith


While Shanti could understand why her mother felt life was hard, she thought she related to her more when she became a mother. As a new lawyer and someone still building up her career, having two kids in two years was overwhelming.
“I felt that feeling like this is overwhelming, being a mother. It’s profoundly difficult in so many ways. I didn’t have that worldview before.” – Shanti Brien


Almost Innocent

Shanti talks about her thoughts while writing her new book, Almost Innocent. In her book, she shares the injustices of two situations she was experiencing simultaneously. One was the issue with her husband’s company receiving a subpoena, and the other of a young boy she represented in court.


Delving deeper into her story, she finds that everyone commits mistakes, and some missteps become crimes in the eyes of the law. But that doesn’t automatically make the person bad, or those who have escaped the criminal justice system any better than those who haven’t.

“I think that’s actually one of the answers that I did come to through writing the book was the profound sense that we share human fallibility. We’re all in this together.” – Shanti Brien
To hear more from Shanti Brien and her new book Almost Innocent, download and listen to this episode.



As a litigator, Shanti Brien has extensive experience in the complex area of habeas corpus litigation, where she developed expertise in constitutional principles as well as the procedural intricacies of the US criminal justice system. She has also handled prisoner civil rights litigation and parole cases.


As an educator and consultant, Shanti continues to advocate for criminal justice reform and equity. She taught at Berkeley Law and Mills College Graduate School of Business and Public Policy. Through Fogbreak Justice, she leads workshops on increasing fairness and building community trust in criminal justice agencies and professionals. Shanti has co-created The CrimSim, an immersive educational experience about the criminal justice system.


She also speaks on bias, equity and criminal justice issues, including “What Businesses can do for criminal justice reform and racial equity” and “The Constitution in Action: The Rapper 2Chainz, The Fourth Amendment, and Six Stories of Constitutional Rights in the Real World.”


Shanti Brien received a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors and distinction in Ethnic Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She earned her JD from Stanford Law School.


Shanti grew up in the Central Valley of California. She writes about growing up with Guns & Roses, mental illness, and my Cowboy and Indian family. She is an enrolled member of the Muscogee (Creek) tribe, now located in Oklahoma. Currently, she lives in the East Bay with my husband and three children.


Shanti loves to hike, read memoirs, create cocktails and listen to 80s music.


Connect with Shanti Brien today!

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