In recent years, America’s criminal justice system has become the subject of an increasingly urgent debate. Critics have assailed the rise of mass incarceration, emphasizing its disproportionate impact on people of color. As James Forman, Jr., points out, however, the war on crime that began in the 1970s was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand why. Forman shows us that the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office amid a surge in crime and drug addiction. Many prominent black officials, including Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry and federal prosecutor Eric Holder, feared that the gains of the civil rights movement were being undermined by lawlessness—and thus embraced tough-on-crime measures, including longer sentences and aggressive police tactics. In the face of skyrocketing murder rates and the proliferation of open-air drug markets, they believed they had no choice. But the policies they adopted would have devastating consequences for residents of poor black neighborhoods. A former D.C. public defender, Forman tells riveting stories of politicians, community activists, police officers, defendants, and crime victims. He writes with compassion about individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas—from the men and women he represented in court to officials struggling to respond to a public safety emergency. Locking Up Our Own enriches our understanding of why our society became so punitive and offers important lessons to anyone concerned about the future of race and the criminal justice system in this country.
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on 04/18/2017
Book details: 320 pages.
Finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize • “In all of the literature addressing education, race, poverty, and criminal justice, there has been nothing quite like Reading with Patrick.”—The Atlantic A memoir of the life-changing friendship between an idealistic young teacher and her gifted student, jailed for murder in the Mississippi Delta Recently graduated from Harvard University, Michelle Kuo arrived in the rural town of Helena, Arkansas, as a Teach for America volunteer, bursting with optimism and drive. But she soon encountered the jarring realities of life in one of the poorest counties in America, still disabled by the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow. In this stirring memoir, Kuo, the child of Taiwanese immigrants, shares the story of her complicated but rewarding mentorship of one student, Patrick Browning, and his remarkable literary and personal awakening. Convinced she can make a difference in the lives of her teenaged students, Michelle Kuo puts her heart into her work, using quiet reading time and guided writing to foster a sense of self in students left behind by a broken school system. Though Michelle loses some students to truancy and even gun violence, she is inspired by some such as Patrick. Fifteen and in the eighth grade, Patrick begins to thrive under Michelle’s exacting attention. However, after two years of teaching, Michelle feels pressure from her parents and the draw of opportunities outside the Delta and leaves Arkansas to attend law school. Then, on the eve of her law-school graduation, Michelle learns that Patrick has been jailed for murder. Feeling that she left the Delta prematurely and determined to fix her mistake, Michelle returns to Helena and resumes Patrick’s education—even as he sits in a jail cell awaiting trial. Every day for the next seven months they pore over classic novels, poems, and works of history. Little by little, Patrick grows into a confident, expressive writer and a dedicated reader galvanized by the works of Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin, Walt Whitman, W. S. Merwin, and others. In her time reading with Patrick, Michelle is herself transformed, contending with the legacy of racism and the questions of what constitutes a “good” life and what the privileged owe to those with bleaker prospects. “A powerful meditation on how one person can affect the life of another . . . One of the great strengths of Reading with Patrick is its portrayal of the risk inherent to teaching.”—The Seattle Times “[A] tender memoir.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
Published by Random House on 07/11/2017
Book details: 336 pages.
At the age of seventeen, Thomas Haynesworth was arrested on multiple rape charges in Virginia. Despite his pleas of innocence, five rape victims, including 20 year-old Janet Burke, ID'ed him as the offender. Only after over two decades of legal wrangling was he exonerated by DNA evidence. Conventional wisdom points to an exoneration as a happy ending to tragic tales of injustice like Haynesworth's. However, even when the physical shackles are left behind, invisible ones can be profoundly more difficult to unlock. In Rectify,former innocence project director and journalist Lara Bazelon takes stock of the massive damage inflicted by wrongful convictions. Despite a record 375 exonerations in the last three years, Bazelon argues that the criminal justice system has not done enough to rectify the devastation left in their wake--the suffering experienced by not only the exoneree, but their families, the crime victims who mistakenly identified them as perpetrators, the jurors who convicted them, and the prosecutors who realized too late that they helped convict an innocent person. In the midst of her frustration over the blatant limitations of courts and advocates, Bazelon's hope is renewed by the fledgling but growing movement to apply the centuries-old practice of restorative justice to wrongful conviction cases. Using the stories of Thomas Haynesworth, Janet Burke, and other crime victims and exonerees, she demonstrates how the transformative experience of connecting isolated individuals around mutual trauma and a shared purpose of repairing harm unites unlikely allies in the common cause of just reparations. Poignantly written and vigorously researched, Bazelon takes to task the far-reaching failures of our criminal justice system, and offers a window into a future where the power it yields can be used in pursuit of healing and unity rather than punishment and blame.
Published on 07/16/2019
Book details: 272 pages.
Aggressive policing and draconian sentencing have disproportionately imprisoned millions of African Americans for drug-related offenses. Michael Javen Fortner shows that in the 1970s these punitive policies toward addicts and pushers enjoyed the support of many working-class and middle-class blacks, angry about the chaos in their own neighborhoods.
Published by Harvard University Press on 09/07/2015
Book details: 350 pages.
Originally published in hardcover in 2016 by Pantheon Books.
Published by Vintage on 08/01/2017
Book details: 752 pages.
New York Times Bestseller New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice "An essential and groundbreaking text in the effort to understand how American criminal justice went so badly awry." —Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of Between the World and Me In A Colony in a Nation, New York Times best-selling author and Emmy Award–winning news anchor Chris Hayes upends the national conversation on policing and democracy. Drawing on wide-ranging historical, social, and political analysis, as well as deeply personal experiences with law enforcement, Hayes contends that our country has fractured in two: the Colony and the Nation. In the Nation, the law is venerated. In the Colony, fear and order undermine civil rights. With great empathy, Hayes seeks to understand this systemic divide, examining its ties to racial inequality, the omnipresent threat of guns, and the dangerous and unfortunate results of choices made by fear.
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on 03/21/2017
Book details: 256 pages.
How did the land of the free become the home of the world’s largest prison system? Elizabeth Hinton traces the rise of mass incarceration to an ironic source: not the War on Drugs of the Reagan administration but the War on Crime that began during Johnson’s Great Society at the height of the civil rights era.
Published by Harvard University Press on 05/09/2016
Book details: 449 pages.
Franklin Zimring compiles data from federal records, crowdsourced research, and investigative journalism to provide a comprehensive, fact-based picture of how, when, where, and why police use deadly force. He offers prescriptions for how federal, state, and local governments could reduce killings at minimum cost without risking officers’ lives.
Published by Harvard University Press on 02/20/2017
Book details: 320 pages.
This eloquent and provocative autobiography, originally published in 1972, records a day by day, sometimes hour by hour, compassionate account of the events that took place in the streets, meetings, churches, jails, and in people's hearts and minds in the 1960s civil rights movement. During the 1960s James Forman served as Executive Secretary and Director of International Affairs of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He is now Distinguished Adjunct Professor of Anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C., and President of the Unemployment and Poverty Action Committee. He is the author of six other books.
Published by University of Washington Press on 07/16/1972
Book details: 568 pages.
Traces the ways in which black leadership and politics have evolved since the civil rights era, evaluating such topics as Barack Obama's achievements and paradigm shifts within the African-American electorate.
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing USA on 05/25/2010
Book details: 191 pages.