Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

by James Forman Jr.

Publishers Weekly Drawing on a varied CV (public defender, Supreme Court clerk, charter school cofounder, Yale law professor), Forman addresses a tangled and thorny issue-the part played by African-Americans in shaping criminal justice policy. A complex picture emerges, focused on Washington, D.C., as black inner-city residents are hurt both by "over- and under-policing" and as effective enforcement and fairer treatment of minorities come to seem incompatible to policymakers. Forman delineates the ravaging effects of cures with boomerang consequences-from vigorous prosecutions of relatively minor offenses that cut offenders off from public benefits, to black anti-drug activism that enables more punitive policing, to mandatory sentencing policies that prove unequally implemented. With regard to public policy, Forman's attentiveness to class divisions in the black community (for example, the middle-class desire for increased numbers of black policemen, as opposed to the working-class goal of simply accessing new avenues of employment) offers an exemplary perspective. The book achieves genuine immediacy, due not only to the topical subject, but also to Forman's personal experiences within the legal system. Possibly controversial, undoubtedly argumentative, Forman's survey offers a refreshing breath of fresh air on the crisis in American policing. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick Literary. (Apr.) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Book list Forman is a former Washington, D.C., public defender, the cofounder of a charter school there, and the son of one of the founders of SNCC, James Forman. He writes about the interrelated topics of the senseless killing of African American men by police; the shocking fact that one-third of young black men (one-half in Washington) are under criminal-justice supervision of some sort; and the larger but equally shocking reality that the U.S. is the world's biggest jailer. Before profiling individuals involved with the criminal-justice system in Washington, from politicians and police to accused criminals and crime victims, he traces the history leading up to the present crisis, noting that in the 1970s many African American leaders favored a tougher criminal-justice system, including strict sentencing laws, but showing how these policies have backfired. His case-study approach, looking closely at these sweeping problems through the lens of one metropolitan area, offers a powerful, gut-wrenching slant on the subject, much like that in Bryan Stevenson's Just Mercy (2014). For a broader perspective, readers should also consult Michelle Alexander's The New Jim Crow (2010).--Levine, Mark Copyright 2017 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Washington, DC, public defender-turned- Yale University clinical law professor Forman traces the growth of the carceral state that now holds behind bars about one in every four adult black males. Taking a different turn from much of the literature on the topic, the author focuses on black-on-black attitudes and actions as he recollects his Washington experience. He argues that beginning in the 1970s, with a rising generation of unprecedented black political power, elected black leaders and their constituents significantly shaped U.S. criminal justice policy, invariably supporting tough on crime measures as fearful black communities sought self-protection. The result in Washington was that a majority black jurisdiction ended up incarcerating many of its own, Forman concludes. VERDICT Forman's series of brief essays deserve reading by policy-makers and practitioners in the criminal justice system, as well as by general readers. His attention to the range of black responses to crime and punishment adds to our understanding of the prison system, while not discounting the enduring role of discrimination. [See Prepub Alert, 10/10/16.]-Thomas J. Davis, Arizona State Univ., Tempe Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A sharp analysis of how African-Americans, due to "profound levels of pain, fear, and anger" over crime and violence in their neighborhoods, have helped shape U.S. policies leading to mass incarceration.In this candid, readable account, Forman, a former Washington, D.C., public defender and current professor at Yale Law School, shows how our nation has gotten to the point where so many citizensprimarily blacksare imprisoned. Surveying the recent history of race, crime, and punishment, the author, son of civil rights pioneer James Forman, argues that mass incarceration has developed incrementally as a result of national campaigns and federal actions as well as of "mundane" local decisions made around the nation. With a focus on majority-black D.C., where he represented criminal defendants and co-founded a charter school for school dropouts, Forman traces the rise of drug addiction and criminality, the resulting widespread fear in black neighborhoods, and the demands in the 1980s for "tougher criminal penalties" that set "a national precedent for punitive sentencing." Most people punished under policies to combat drugs and guns, he writes, have been "low-income, poorly educated black men." Especially insightful are Forman's discussions of the rise of black policing in the 1960s ("a surprising number of black officers simply didn't like other black peopleat least not the poor blacks they tended to police"), the "hostile, unforgiving mindset" that prompted "warrior policing" during the 1980s crack epidemic, and the practice of "pretext policing," in which routine traffic stops are used to seek evidence of criminal activity, especially in ghetto areas. Writing with authority and compassion, the author tells many vivid stories of the human toll taken by harsh criminal justice policies. He also asks provocative questionse.g., what if the D.C. drug epidemic had been treated as a public health issue rather than a law enforcement problem? Certain to stir debate, this book offers an important new perspective on the ongoing proliferation of America's "punishment binge." Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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