Locking up our own Crime and punishment in Black America

James Forman, 1967-

Book - 2017

"An original and consequential argument about race, crime, and the law Today, Americans are debating our criminal justice system with new urgency. Mass incarceration and aggressive police tactics -- and their impact on people of color -- are feeding outrage and a consensus that something must be done. But what if we only know half the story? In Locking Up Our Own, the Yale legal scholar and former public defender James Forman Jr. weighs the tragic role that some African Americans themselves... played in escalating the war on crime. As Forman shows, the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office around the country amid a surge in crime. Many came to believe that tough measures -- such as stringent drug and gun laws and "pretext traffic stops" in poor African American neighborhoods -- were needed to secure a stable future for black communities. Some politicians and activists saw criminals as a "cancer" that had to be cut away from the rest of black America. Others supported harsh measures more reluctantly, believing they had no other choice in the face of a public safety emergency. Drawing on his experience as a public defender and focusing on Washington, D.C., Forman writes with compassion for individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas -- from the young men and women he defended to officials struggling to cope with an impossible situation. The result is an original view of our justice system as well as a moving portrait of the human beings caught in its coils."--

Saved in:

2nd Floor Show me where

364.973/Forman
0 / 1 copies available
Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 364.973/Forman Due Jan 3, 2022
Subjects
Published
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2017.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
306 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN
9780374189976
0374189978
Main Author
James Forman, 1967- (author)
  • Part I: Origins
  • 1. Gateway to the war on drugs: marijuana, 1975
  • 2. Black lives matter: gun control, 1975
  • 3. Representatives of their race: the rise of African American police, 1948-78
  • Part II: Consequences
  • 4. "Locking up thugs is not vindictive": sentencing, 1981-82
  • 5. "The worst thing to hit us since slavery": crack and the advent of warrior policing, 1988-92
  • 6. What would Martin Luther King, Jr., say?: stop and search, 1995
  • Epilogue: The reach of our mercy, 2014-16.
Review by Library Journal Reviews

Yale Law School professor Forman argues that black America suffers from aggressive police tactics and disproportionately high rates of incarceration because the crime rate was high when African Americans first started taking office as mayors, judges, and police chiefs. Thus, they felt compelled to institute tough measures to help create stable black communities.. Copyright 2016 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

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 Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

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 2017 Publisher Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Recounts the tragic role that some African Americans--as judges, prosecutors, politicians, police officers, and voters--played in escalating the war on crime"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

"An original and consequential argument about race, crime, and the law Today, Americans are debating our criminal justice system with new urgency. Mass incarceration and aggressive police tactics -- and their impact on people of color -- are feeding outrage and a consensus that something must be done. But what if we only know half the story? In Locking Up Our Own, the Yale legal scholar and former public defender James Forman Jr. weighs the tragic role that some African Americans themselves played in escalating the war on crime. As Forman shows, the first substantial cohort of black mayors, judges, and police chiefs took office around the country amid a surge in crime. Many came to believe that tough measures -- such as stringent drug and gun laws and "pretext traffic stops" in poor African American neighborhoods -- were needed to secure a stable future for black communities. Some politicians and activists saw criminals as a "cancer" that had to be cut away from the rest of black America. Others supported harsh measures more reluctantly, believing they had no other choice in the face of a public safety emergency. Drawing on his experience as a public defender and focusing on Washington, D.C., Forman writes with compassion for individuals trapped in terrible dilemmas -- from the young men and women he defended to officials struggling to cope with an impossible situation. The result is an original view of our justice system as well as a moving portrait of the human beings caught in its coils. "--

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Examines the debates surrounding the criminal justice system and its activities involving mass incarceration, aggressive police tactics, and their impact on at-risk people of color and beleaguered law-enforcement officers.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

A consequential argument about race, crime and law in today's America by a Yale legal scholar and former public defender examines the urgent debates surrounding the criminal justice system and its activities involving mass incarceration, aggressive police tactics and their impact on at-risk people of color and beleaguered law-enforcement officers.

Review by Publisher Summary 5

Winner of the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction
Long-listed for the National Book Award
Finalist, Current Interest Category, Los Angeles Times Book Prizes
One of The New York Times Book Review's 10 Best Books of 2017

Short-listed for the Inaugural Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

Former public defender James Forman, Jr. is a leading critic of mass incarceration and its disproportionate impact on people of color. In Locking Up Our Own, he seeks to understand the war on crime that began in the 1970s and why it was supported by many African American leaders in the nation’s urban centers.

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.

Review by Publisher Summary 6

An original and consequential argument about race, crime, and the law