Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Apr 18, 2017 - Political Science - 306 pages
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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.

 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - rivkat - LibraryThing

Focusing on DC, where Forman lived and worked for a number of years, Forman tells a story that applies in many places in the US: the reasons that African-Americans supported, at least initially, harsh ... Read full review

Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America

User Review  - James Forman - 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 ... Read full review

Contents

Introduction
3
Marijuana 1975
17
Gun Control 1975
47
The Rise
78
Sentencing 198182
119
Crack
151
The Reach of Our Mercy 201416
217
Notes
241
Acknowledgments
287
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About the author (2017)

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.

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