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Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
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Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America


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.

Title:Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America
Format Type:Kindle Edition
Number of Pages:320 pages
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    Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America Reviews

  • Sarah
    Apr 10, 2017

    An excellent book! I was reading on my iPad and I tend to read very slowly that way... but I would find time for this book. Engaging, understandably infuriating, and with a tone I found passionate but...

  • Casey
    May 18, 2017

    I learned so much from this book. It really challenged my understanding of mandatory minimums and the war on crime. At its best, it is a deep dive into the history as related by old newspaper coverage...

  • Rt
    Jun 15, 2017

    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...

  • Bonnie
    May 14, 2017

    An honest and thoughtful look at how we got to the War on Drugs, and why so many members of the black community supported a tough on crime approach. Forman is a law professor and he can sometimes come...

  • Audacia Ray
    Jun 19, 2017

    This is not a book of theory or solutions, it is a really solid history that focuses on DC and spans about 70 years of policing and incarceration policy and practice. Forman is an engaging writer and ...

  • Em
    Jun 06, 2017

    This book is incredible. It takes you through every stage of how we got into this mass incarceration debacle and why people "way back when" thought it was a good idea. It's important to put history in...

  • Sam
    Jun 19, 2017

    This is a great book, well-written and with an important thesis: the crisis of mass incarceration that disproportionally criminalizes Black people was created in part by well-meaning Black politicians...

  • Lynn
    Jun 04, 2017

    Relying on his own experience as a public defender in Washington DC, this well researched and written book tells how we created the present problem of too much incarceration of (mainly Black) criminal...

  • Zach
    May 15, 2017

    Masterful work of nonfiction. Shows how delicate the balance must be between demanding equal rights and preventing the oppressed and addicted from further disenfranchisement. Jeff Sessions could learn...

  • Christine
    May 14, 2017

    The title is a little misleading, because while the story and lessons learned have wider implications, this is a book about D.C. Still, it's an important story that hasn't been addressed head-on by an...