Locking Up Our Own by James Forman Jr.
Crime and Punishment in Black America

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But it’s his six years as a public defender that seem most relevant to the sensibility of this book — and that give it a special halo, setting it apart.
-NY Times

Synopsis

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.

 

About James Forman Jr.

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James Forman Jr. is a clinical professor of law at Yale Law School. He has written for The New York Times, The New Republic, numerous law reviews, and other publications. A former clerk for Judge William Norris of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor of the United States Supreme Court, he spent six years as a public defender in Washington, D.C. He is the cofounder of the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington.
 
Published April 18, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 320 pages
Genres: Political & Social Sciences, Crime, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for Locking Up Our Own
All: 2 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 0

NY Journal of Books

Above average
Reviewed by Paul Street on Apr 21 2017

Still, Locking Up Our Own is a compelling and indispensable volume for those who want to get the whole story on the rise of the “the New Jim Crow”—a story that must include serious attention to class and other fractures within black America.

Read Full Review of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and... | See more reviews from NY Journal of Books

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Jennifer Senior on Apr 11 2017

But it’s his six years as a public defender that seem most relevant to the sensibility of this book — and that give it a special halo, setting it apart.

Read Full Review of Locking Up Our Own: Crime and... | See more reviews from NY Times
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